man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair
Photo by Nathan Cowley on

Currently, we are swinging wildly back andĀ forth between no restrictions at all here in IOM, and criminalising illegal hugs with 4 week prison sentences. As I write this, the IOM Government imposed an “emergency” lockdown on our community two weeks ago.

It’s disappointing that the decision was made in secret by nine men. They consulted secret “science”. There was no public debate or discussion of the merits of the lockdown – even Tynwald did not consider it until after it had been imposed. Not only was there no binary “yes/no” public debate of the thing, there was no public debate or discussion about the specific parts of lockdown. For example, compared to last lockdown, appears to be a slightly more permissive arrangement for people fleeing from domestic abuse, and more permissive arrangement for people exercising. But people who live alone are still prohibited from hugging anyone – even their romantic life partner.

It is difficult to imagine anyone genuinely believing that the diktats announced by the Chief Minister two weeks ago are literally perfect. I have a hard time anyone believing in the infallibility of the Chief Minister (hardly anyone even believes in papal infallibility any more, let alone Chief Ministerial infallibility!). So in that case, it would be constructive to look for ways to improve it – such as by decriminalising hugs between people who live alone and one other consenting adult (commonly called ‘support bubbles’).

Ideas like this may reduce the overall cost of lockdowns by simply reducing loneliness – and that’s why the “scientific advice” to the Council of Ministers should be published transparently. True science happens in public, not in secret.

The harms of overly zealous rule enforcement

Last year, a local woman was sentenced to 4 weeks in prison as a result of fleeing from a drunken domestic disturbance to a homeless shelter. Another woman was sentenced to 4 weeks in prison for the crime of stopping to refuel her car en route from the Douglas Sea Terminal to Ramsey (where she was going to be the carer for an 80 year old man travelling with her).

In January this year, when we were plunged back into lockdown, a local woman was allegedly murdered in a domestic violence incident on January 17 – and three days later, on January 20, the IOM Government “clarified” the law that people were allowed to leave their home if they were at risk of domestic violence. I’m not saying that there was a causation between these two events, but there’s obviously a correlation of timing.

In 2020, amongst the lockdowns, the number of local suicides jumped from 6 in 2019, to 22 in 2020.

I feel sad

I’m sad for the harm to people’s mental health.

I’m sad for the harm to people’s physical health.

I’m sad for the increased risk of domestic violence.

I’m sad for the harm to our children’s education.

I’m sad for the likely job losses.

I’m sad for the small businesses who might collapse.

I’m sad for the damaged friendships.I’m sad for the harmed romances.

I’m sad for the potential lives lost.

I’m sad for the lost hugs.

I’m sad that the Government didn’t take smaller steps sooner which might have prevented this lockdown

I’m sad that not a single so-called “expert” has lost even a penny for any of their errors through this year, when so many ordinary working people have lost lots.

I feel optimistic

I feel optimistic that although an awful lot of people have contracted the disease, the vast majority of them will recover.

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.