With the Isle of Man now one of the most-afflicted areas of the world by COVID-19, many workers and businesses are suffering as a result.
Workers are suffering
Many local workers are suffering. One tells me, “Obviously now I’m isolating I can’t work… the sick pay just won’t even cover close to what I need.”
This is not a new problem, and I’ve got a long track record since July 2020 (!!!) of fighting for more support for workers who are forced to self-isolate.
The key beneficiary of the quarantine is not the person with the virus. The key beneficiary of forced self-isolation is the broader community, and thus, it is right that the broader community provide support to people who are forced to quarantine at home for our benefit. This support should be, at the very least, some sort of financial support, such as additional sickness payments in lieu of their normal earnings. Those payments will make it easier for people to self-isolate, and in doing so, will help reduce the risk of the rest of us getting infected.
Businesses are suffering directly
Listening to the businesses of Douglas East, the message has been loud and clear, and best summarised by one business manager, who told me directly:
“It’s not a lockdown, it’s going to be a closedown. I’ve lost two chefs due to the restrictions, several serving staff, and if I lose any more staff, my entire business is going to need to close down.”
This direct feedback is representative of problems facing businesses across Douglas East and is leading to significant disruption across our community. Other local businesses have also reported that they “are facing significant staffing shortages”. We need to provide support to such businesses, so that these problems do not cause a self-fulfilling economic jam to spiral out of control.
Businesses are suffering indirectly
Businesses across Douglas East are also facing indirect problems. Most frustratingly, businesses are having difficulty planning and preparing for future developments. This is exacerbated because the Council of Ministers continues to keep the scientific advice that it receives a secret.
It is plausible to understand that under normal, non-pandemic, conditions, political advice made to the Council of Ministers should be kept confidential. I understand that the Council of Ministers believes that such secrecy is important to ensure that advice is open, frank and honest.
However, when dealing with scientific advice during a pandemic, such rationales are not applicable. Science is best performed when it is open and transparent, and subject to public scrutiny. No honest scientist should be afraid of their scientific work being open to scrutiny because open scrutiny is the fundamental basis of the scientific method. As I highlighted as early as April 2020, it is likely that the large errors of the Department of Health and Social Care in modelling the initial COVID-19 outbreak on the Isle of Man could have been avoided if the modelling had been subject to normal, open, scientific scrutiny.
Need to take action
Consequently, I wrote directly to the Treasury Minister on behalf of the suffering workers and businesses advocating for three concrete steps:
- Direct financial support for people who are forced to isolate.
- Direct financial support for businesses who are harmed by staff isolating.
- The IOM Government to end its secrecy on scientific advice on the pandemic