Today, 5 January 2021, is the exact one-year anniversary of when I first heard about a virus circulating in Wuhan wet markets. Sitting in Hong Kong Airport (I had been in Hong Kong, visiting a friend on the way home to the Isle of Man from Australia) I heard an announcement over the tannoys warning that anyone travelling to or from Wuhan should wear a face mask because of a viral outbreak there. Subsequently, the virus was renamed, and there is now persuasive evidence that the virus did not originate in the wet market. But on 5 January 2020, all of that was yet-to-come.
Perhaps because of that early awareness, I was much more cautious of the risks of what was then the Wuhan virus than others at the time. To the mirth of my friends, I did my “panic buying” of groceries in January, and to my disappointment, my warnings in January of the virus went unheeded by many others.
Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen a repeated pattern of IOM Government decisions: downplay the risk, be found to be wrong, and then belatedly u-turn as the truth became obvious even to the fake ‘experts’ making decisions. Repeatedly, we have seen Government ‘experts’ make the wrong decisions, before being corrected in the sunlight of public scrutiny. With a virus spreading quickly, slow action is bad action. Early imperfect action is better than late perfect action.
While, of course, it would be best for the right decision to be made initially, it is better-than-nothing that the IOM Government has changed course to fix their errors after listening. This last week, we’ve seen another good change: After spending the entire pandemic keeping coronavirus exposure sites a secret, two weeks after my article here arguing that the IOM Government should publicly identify times and places of heightened coronavirus risk, the IOM Government has backtracked and disclosed this important information. This is late action, but better than nothing! Converts are welcome at any time!
Early March: Government says risk to IOM is “moderate to low”.
This late action is part of a consistent pattern of behaviour by these Government ‘experts’. On the 3rd of March when even the WHO (who repeatedly tried to downplay the risk of the virus in the early days) admitted that the global level threat assessment was “very high” with over 90,000 confirmed cases across the world (and an unknown numbers of unconfirmed cases), the local IOM Government ‘experts’ wrongly claimed that the risk to the Isle of Man was “moderate to low“.
Mid March: Wrong information to arriving travellers
Then, as we moved into mid-March, the Isle of Man Government experts – entrusted to protect our island against the disease coming – provided the wrong information to returning travellers at both Ronaldsway Airport and Douglas Sea Terminal. It is possible that this was directly connected to returning travellers a week later wrongly going out in public to socialise rather than directly self-isolating.
18 March: The die is cast
On 18 March, within hours of each other, a trio of fateful decisions were announced by the Governments of different island nations. On 19 March (New Zealand time) the New Zealand Government took strong further measures to protect New Zealanders from the COVID-19 (corona) virus, effectively stopping all tourists from boarding a plane to New Zealand. At around the same time, the Australian Government announced similar restrictions: Australia closed “its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents”.
Literally within minutes (owing to time differences), in perhaps one of the more fateful decisions of this pandemic, when other proactive island nations were closing their borders, the Isle of Man Government was encouraging people to go out to restaurants and bars. This appears to have been a misguided attempt to ‘protect the economy’ and comes from a deeply wrong-headed view that there is some sort of trade-off between protecting the economy and protecting public health. As we now know far too well, this is a false dichotomy: the best way to protect the economy has been to protect public health.
May: Masks are bad
The ‘experts’ weren’t just wrong at the beginning of the pandemic. Their bad judgment continued during the pandemic, with the awful refusal to recommend that Manx people wear masks even into late May.
October: Dozens of breaches, over a hundred reported breaches to IOM Police
Even after the virus had apparently been eradicated locally (despite the IOM Government saying that this would be nothing but a “dream) we were not out of the woods: there was a very real risk that visiting essential workers would bring the virus back to our shores. Here, we had a more basic failure of implementation: visiting key workers were given instructions which were written by lawyers, and not reviewed by humans.
There’s a simple idea here: prevention is better than cure. When there were dozens of people arrested for breaking the rules, and over a hundred cases reported to the police, it was clear evidence that the status quo was not good enough. Fortunately, not long after my Manx Radio interview on the issue, the IOM Government subsequently caved in on the issue, and improved their performance. The result was stark: we went from dozens of reported breaches before the change to very few breaches after the change. The Isle of Man was safer as a result.
December: Traa Dy Liooar for Vaccines
Back in early December, the first person in the UK was officially administered the vaccine. It has taken a month for the first person in the Isle of Man to get the thing. While the vaccine was supposed to arrive in early December, it was then delayed by a shipping problem, and then delayed by paperwork, and then delayed by Christmas.
It seemed that the Isle of Man applied a more stringent isolation protocol to the vaccine than to the arriving people who might be carrying the underlying virus.
This is fundamentally the wrong mentality. If you are sufficiently devoted to Christmas that it is a sacred and holy day for you (and thus, you normally object to working on that day) then Christmas should also be sufficiently sacred and holy to save lives.
The whole point of Christmas is that our saviour arrived, to save us from the wickedness of the world. THAT’S WHY OUR CIVILISATION CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS! For people to use Christmas as an excuse to delay protecting our community from the wickedness of a disease is an awful abomination of the true meaning of Christmas.
Fortunately for them, some other nations do not have such a laggardly attitude to protecting their community. It is no surprise that in one of the most religious developed nations, Israel, there was widespread consultation with religious leaders. It is also no surprise that religious leaders there endorsed conducting vaccine preparation through Hannukah and throughout the Sabbath – because saving lives trumps everything.
This makes the traa dy liooar attitude here in the Isle of Man so much more frustrating. The vaccine doesn’t offer any protection if it is left sitting in freezers.