Michelle Haywood wanted to know how Public Health is continuing its surveillance of respiratory illnesses through the summer, including Covid.
Cabinet Office Minister Kate Lord-Brennan said that the winter approach for these illnesses had now ended, with the last respiratory illnesses surveillance report by Public Health being dated May 5.
‘Over the winter, Public Health have been monitoring the rate of Covid-19 along with other respiratory illnesses,’ she said in response to a question from Daphne Caine in Tynwald.
‘Taken from the most recent data published by Public Health in its report dated May 5, 2023, the latest surveillance rate of Covid-19 infection in the Isle of Man is 0% in persons under 18 and about 7.7% for persons over 18.
‘Surveillance is overseen by the interim director of Public Health and is reported on by Public Health in its surveillance report.
‘This is based on clinical surveillance swab results taken from patients admitted to hospital with respiratory symptoms.’
Dr Haywood, an MHK for Rushen, pointed out that the respiratory illness webpage now says data is no longer being collected as it is listed as ‘seasonal’ respiratory illness.
She said: ‘However, this is in direct contrast to a recent major paper that says it’s not a seasonal winter illness.
‘Covid will come at us in waves every three to four months and that attack rate will continue until everyone’s going to get it at some point in time.’
Asked why there was no public reporting on Covid levels, Ms Lord-Brennan said: ‘It has taken a different approach in terms of surveillance.
‘During the winter months, the illnesses have variable effects and the important thing is about the strain on health and social care services.
‘The data that’s been collected by this respiratory surveillance system helps inform any control measures in that respect.
‘It’s been a while now since we did general population testing.
‘Testing as we are currently doing has definitely been identified as the most appropriate way forward.’
She added: ‘The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the pandemic over and therefore it’s been anticipated there will be less focus on measuring just Covid-19 in cases going forward, which is why there needs to be a focus on other respiratory health issues as well.’
Dr Haywood said: ‘The WHO did not say that the Covid pandemic was over.
‘It said the Covid emergency pandemic was over.
‘It actually made a further statement saying the worst thing any country can do now is use this news as a reason to let down its guard and dismantle systems it’s built or to send a message to its people that Covid-19 is nothing to worry about.
The minister said the Manx government had ‘moved to a different stage’.
‘We were clear at the start of this year that in moving to an endemic approach, we were continually testing at population level and testing that data and reporting on it was going to fall away,’ she said.