IOM Government is making a belated step in the right direction on Coronavirus, but undermined by their own failures

The Isle of Man Government has been slow to respond to the Coronavirus – but it appears that it is belatedly doing the right thing. During yesterday’s press conference, the Isle of Man Government announced a number of measures to try to keep our island community healthy. These steps are generally in the right direction, and incorporate many of the measures that I advocated last week. Of course, it would have been better for such actions to be implemented last week – but better late than never!

As I said last week, moves to restrict the movements of people who arrive on the island are a step in the right direction. Similarly, moves to increase testing in the community are a step in the right direction. They’re slow and tentative steps, but they represent a complete pivot from the Government’s previous do-little attitude.

UPDATE: 4pm, 17 March – The Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus website has now been updated at https://www.gov.im//Coronavirus

Government’s Communications Are Failing

It is self-evident that pandemics require clear and accurate communication from our Government – but our Government is failing to do this. While the underlying measures suggest that the Isle of Man Government is belatedly taking this issue seriously, the Isle of Man Government is still failing to communicate these measures accurately and clearly to the public. Continued failures of this sort from the Government will put the health of our island at risk, and will undermine public support for the tough measures ahead. The Coronavirus is not going to be overcome in weeks. It is going to be a lengthy struggle, and the road ahead will be very challenging.

Website Fail

Incorrect advice on the IOM Government website

As I write this (10am, 17 March) – more than seventeen hours after the measures were announced, the Isle of Man Government’s “official” Coronavirus website still has out-of-date information.

UPDATE: 4pm, 17 March – The Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus website has now been updated at https://www.gov.im//Coronavirus

Yesterday, the Isle of Man Health Minister admirably admitted that he was changing his position. His very reasonable view was that new information had come to light, and as a result, he was changing his mind. Of course, it would have been better to have made these decisions last week, but to give him credit, he has now admitted the previous advice was no longer appropriate going forward.

Despite the Health Minister’s change-of-mind yesterday, the Isle of Man Coronavirus website still has not been updated – with not even a link to the corrected information. Of course, we recognise that this is a fast moving case, but this website fail shows that this Government is playing catch-up, rather than proactively planning and acting for the future. The fact that this situation is changing quickly is all the more reason that up-to-date information is important.

Airport Fail

Posters at IOM Airport were three weeks old, with wrong advice for travellers

Despite the fast moving nature of this situation, the Isle of Man Airport (and possibly other locations) continued to display out-of-date signage with out-of-date directions to arriving travellers.

We know that if this virus gets to the Isle of Man (assuming, of course, it is not already here) it will be brought by an infected person arriving on our island. It is possible that the carrier might be a resident of the Isle of Man, or might be a visitor. It is possible that they might have symptoms, and it is possible that they might not have symptoms. We just don’t know.

In that context, it is absolutely essential that up-to-date information is provided for arriving travellers on arrival in the Isle of Man. Despite extensive media coverage about this issue last week, the Isle of Man Government continued to display old, out-of-date posters at the airport, with wrong information and wrong guidance to travellers.

It is sad that the IOM Government is failing to achieve even the basic levels of public communication – clear and accurate information for people arriving at the airport.

Police Fail

Incorrect advice published – but quickly removed and corrected – by IOM Police

In the midst of this ham-fisted effort at public health communications, it is no wonder that other arms of the Isle of Man Government are being confused, with the Isle of Man police tweeting inaccurate information this morning, and then quickly deleting it. To give credit to the Isle of Man Police, they did then publish the right information shortly thereafter.

This must be an incredibly difficult time for brave public servants on the front line – whether they serve in the police, in our health services, or other areas. Their face-to-face interactions with the public are likely to be very challenging in coming days and weeks, and it’s awful that the folks in the back office aren’t doing the right thing to support them. The Police are doing their best under very trying circumstances, and their effort isn’t made any easier by the Government’s communications failures.

The key failure of the IOM Government’s efforts here has been a failure to provide one absolute “source of truth” that other arms of Government can rely upon. They have tried to have a central website at https://gov.im/Coronavirus – but have failed to keep it updated to reflect new and updated information. Last week, it was wrong. As I described above, the information is again, currently, wrong.

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