young woman with book in autumn park
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Many people in the Isle of Man – especially in our towns – do not have gardens. Many people do not even have balconies.

As the weather becomes a little nicer, and as we may now suffer another month of lockdown, it is probably reasonable to allow people to sit alone outside. Currently, the Isle of Man Government criminalises such behaviour with threatened sentences of four weeks in gaol.

A year ago, it was plausible to ban people to sit alone outside, because we did not know the nature of the virus. However, back on 21 April last year, after a month of one of the most punitive lockdown rulesets in the world, the Isle of Man Government decriminalised people sitting alone outside.

Of course, if Government has some secret “scientific” advice that it was wrong to decriminalise people sitting alone outside last year, that should be published. From the real science that is now publicly available in March 2021, the risk of people sitting alone outside seems to be manageably low. Right there are ten credible sources that the risk is low. The Isle of Man Government has provided zero public sources to support their current law that people sitting alone outside should be sent to jail.

This description from the Chief Minister on 21 April 2020 still applies in 2021, especially since we know that the greatest risk factors for transmission of the virus are people being in close proximity in poorly ventilated rooms indoors:

As I said before – there are real harms that flow from a sustained lockdown environment. We want to do what we can to ease these – in a gradual, managed and clinically driven manner.

From Friday, we will no longer limit your time out of your home. There will no longer be a requirement that this is for “essential reasons” only.

We will be widening the recreation that you can undertake to include activities that can be done in a safe and socially distanced way. We will be publishing guidelines ahead of Friday.

You can continue to go to public spaces but please keep your distance from others.

I do need to make clear staying at home when you can is still important. If you can, then please do.

This is not about relaxing our measures. But we are adjusting them to achieve a more sustainable, fairer and healthier balance.

We have proved that as a community we understand the importance of social distancing. We need you to keep doing that – and demanding that others respect your space too.

We are not – I repeat not – yet ready to relax the rules banning public gatherings with people who are not part of your household. Breaking the chain of transmission from house to house has made such an important difference to reducing the spread of the virus. We need to keep doing that.

Neither are we ready to change the requirement that people must – wherever possible – work from home.

Chief Minister’s Statement on COVID-19 – 21 April 2020

The Chief Minister was right to decriminalise people sitting outside alone after around four weeks of lockdown last year. Now that the Isle of Man has vaccinated 40% of our adult population, and the risk to life is lower, it would probably be right to do the same again now that we have endured three weeks of lockdown.

30 and 31st March Update: Here’s a link to the prohibition notice which applied from 16th to 31st March on movement when I wrote the article above, and here’s the updated prohibition notice which came into effect on 23 March and currently applies until 6 April. As far as this issue pertains, they’re the same: they both prohibit people leaving their home for anything other than a narrow list of permitted activities. Here’s a link to a more plain English explanation of the rules.

Michael Josem is a long-term consumer advocate, most prominently as a global leader in combating fraud in the online gambling industry. He was in part the inspiration for the 20th Century Fox Movie, Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.

Josem has over a decade of experience as a senior business leader working across various high-tech and online industries, and takes action to build a better community. His primary volunteer roles include service for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Graih, the homelessness charity.