You will have seen our announcement earlier that we have an additional three confirmed cases. This means that we now have five confirmed cases. As with the previous cases, all three of the new cases are self-isolating and are at home.
As you can see, the situation is changing all the time. And the understanding of how this pandemic is moving through society is also changing. We are working closely with partners across in the UK who are sharing their latest information.
I have with me today the Ministers of Health and Education who will be able to answer your questions after I make my statement. The Health Minister will also be able to share the latest statistics with you regarding the number of tests conducted and also the work of our COVID-111 line.
I have always said that we would make decisions when we judged the moment was right. I have chaired an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers this afternoon and we have agreed that it is now the moment to move to the next stage of our plan.
The Council of Ministers have today agreed that schools should close for most children from the end of the school day tomorrow (Monday 23 March). The Department of Education has been working with school leaders to establish how we will provide a safe environment for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. The Minister can tell you more about that in a second.
Before I hand over, I would like to say for the record, that I am grateful for the engagement from the teaching leadership group. They, like me, have the best interests of the children at the forefront of their minds. We have valued their advice.
Closing the border
The Council of Ministers has also agreed – following clinical advice – that it is in the best interests of the Isle of Man to close the borders to all non-residents.
The number of non-residents coming to the Isle of Man has dropped dramatically in the past week. But from 9am tomorrow Monday 23 March, only people normally resident in the Isle of Man will be able to enter the Island, with checks being made at sea and air ports.
The only exceptions to this rule will be a small number of people who may be vital to keeping the island running or to the protection of life. These people will require prior clearance from the Chief Secretary and will be subjected to a careful set of protocols while they are on the Island.
People who are ordinarily resident will be able to return home. They will of course be required to adhere to the new law on mandatory self-isolation for 14 days regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.
Bars, restaurants etc.
The medical advice is now that we need to take more emphatic measures regarding social gatherings. As a result, the Council of Ministers has agreed that all pubs and clubs must close from midnight tonight. Where they have the ability to do so, they will be allowed to offer a delivery service. But customers must not go onto the premises.
For cafés and restaurants, we have agreed that they will be able to offer a collection service as well as delivery. But we will be insisting that those cafes and restaurants who wish to offer this service put in place strict social distancing measures. If people do not do this, we will have to reconsider this flexibility and look at complete closure.
We have also agreed that all gyms and other health centres must close. As part of that, we will also be closing the NSC in its entirety.
I would like to talk about the economic impact of COVID-19. I cannot overstate the challenges this is likely to pose. Work is being led by the Treasury Minister – working closely with the Minister for Enterprise – on measures to support the economy and our workforce. There has been extensive consultation with business. Work on the package is currently being finalised.
The Treasury Minister will be here tomorrow at 10am to make a full statement and answer your questions. I hope you will be able to hold your questions on this important topic until then. Meanwhile, I would like to put on the record my thanks to him and his officers.
A plea. We all need to do more. We need a wholesale change in our behaviour. We all need to take more seriously our individual responsibilities.
If you think that you have COVID-19 symptoms, do not go to your GP or to the hospital. Stay at home and call the COVID-111 line. Health professionals will give you advice.
But even if you do not have symptoms, you must make a change to your behaviour. This is no longer optional.
Everyone needs to respect the rules on social distancing. Stop social gatherings. Do not go to any place where crowds gather. This is the moment for everyone to carefully consider whether any trip is necessary. If it is for something essential such as shopping for food, then maintain the two metre rule – six feet in old money. But if someone is within reach then they are too close.
Relaxation of rules for those without symptoms
We recognise that these new measures will put a strain on people, including on their mental health. Following careful consultation with our clinical experts, we have agreed that if you are not showing symptoms, and if no one in your household is showing symptoms, then you can go out for a walk or fresh air as long as you maintain a safe distance from anyone who is not a member of your household. If we feel this flexibility is being abused, we will have to review.
On food shopping, I need to record my thanks to the food retailers for having taken steps to enable our most vulnerable to get what they need. There is plenty of food and other supplies for everyone. Freight is coming in. We need everyone to act responsibly. Buy what you need.
If you do not do this, it is not just yourself that you are putting at risk. It could be our health professionals you put at risk. It could be the key workers we need to keep our community safe. It could be your loved ones. It will certainly be the most vulnerable members of our society.
These will not be the last announcements we make this week. I know we will have to go further. I want to ensure that we do so in a controlled manner.
We all love our island. We all need to do the right thing and slow the spread of COVID-19. If you can stay at home, please so do. If you absolutely need to go out then keep your distance.
Source: IOM Gov (22 Mar 2020)