The Isle of Man has been in ‘lockdown’ for almost four weeks. Until very recently, the Isle of Man Government was very reluctant to openly discuss a forward-looking plan of emerging from the current restrictions.
In a way, the Chief Minister’s announcement on 21 April is a reflection of the bizarre world we are now in. It would have been unfathomable six months ago to even contemplate our Government giving us permission to leave our homes freely. Indeed, this process makes it seem that the Chief Minister was akin to Moses, returning from his conversations with a higher power, to deliver the new commandments to the people beneath him. Instead of commandments about loving our mother and our father, we have commandments about building sites opening on Friday.
I’ve written previously about ways to improve our lockdown, but the Chief Minister’s statement has some other strategic changes which are very different to what I proposed. I thought that some parts were good, but the fundamental problem is that the Chief Minister missed the opportunity today to talk about the broader strategy, and the broader vision here. He has laid out the beginnings of a street map – without explaining either the journey, or the purpose of the journey.
Instead, we need to recognise that there are three honest and hard truths here:
- As I said on our podcast the other day, “until we have a vaccine, the infection rate, and the death rate is not going to be zero. There are going to continue to be infections, and there are going to people who continue to die.”
- Any opening of any sort is going to increase infections and deaths. The disease is terribly virulent, it transmits from people to people very quickly, and it will cause harm.
- The current situation is not sustainable. Humans cannot continue live locked up in their homes. There’s too much unemployment, too little production, and too much domestic violence to continue this forever.
I believe that each of these three things are true. I do not think that any of those three statements are particularly controversial. They are simple statements describing the world we now live in.
These are truths that our community leaders need to be telling, because they are true, and because we need to have a community conversation about how to handle the consequent trade-offs that they imply. It’s not adequate for a political leader to privately consult the “experts” and to make the consequent trade-offs for a mature community and a sensible democracy like ours.
We therefore need to have a conversation as a Manx community about how we balance these issues – we need to have a clear system to improve testing, isolate suspected infected people and contact trace. We need to ensure that our hospitals have capacity (and the Manx Government has said that they do) and we need to have a conversation as a community to identify which restrictions make sense. As I’ve written previously, some of the current rules didn’t make sense on their face and we can improve the rules to make our community safer.
Most importantly, the restrictions impose different costs (and benefits!) on different people. We need to have a community conversation about how best to what do we have what helps people who are vulnerable. We need to hear a plan to protect those people – such as through some sort of accelerated access to vacines, to anti-viral treatments, and so on. They should be debated, because different people have very reasonably held views – and those reasonable views might conflict with each other. As as a result of this public debate, our politicians should listen, and return to being representatives, not rules. Don’t come to us like Moses with the God-given commandments. Come to us as our servant leader, listening and representing the Manx public.
7 May 2020 Update: Corrected a typo from “they” to “there”