Covid-19 independent review terms

By Gemma Nettle   |   Reporter   |
Monday 2nd May 2022 12:02 pm
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Isle of Man Chief Minister Alfred Cannan hosts a briefing on the Omicron variant of Covid-19 (Isle of Man Newspapers )

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The terms of reference for the independent review into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic have been approved.

It will cover the period from December 2019, when the first case of Covid was reported in China, to the end of September 2021, the end of the term of office of the 2016-21 administration.

Chief Minister Alfred Cannan presented the terms to Tynwald on Tuesday, saying that there was very much a ‘willingness to get on with this’.

Questions were taken and many members of the court referenced specific events during the pandemic, such as Abbotswood, the nursing home in Ballasalla that saw 20 residents die due to Covid infection in 2020, and the Steam Packet Company, when ferry workers experienced confusion around isolation rules due to poor communication between the government and the Steam Packet which was linked to the third lockdown in the island.

Mr Cannan assured these events would be covered in the review but would be at the discretion of the independent chair of the review, who has the power to recommend a public inquiry be held into any part of the response.

The yet to be appointed chair may or may not determine other areas that need to be brought into the inquiry. He added that the report will be published to Tynwald by December 31, 2023.

There was concern among members that this was too short a time to complete such a widespread review, which Mr Cannan agreed with, saying he shared these concerns.

‘I would expect the chair could be asked to provide an interim report to Tynwald with recommendations or a request to extend the inquiry,’ he said.

Mr Cannan explained that an extension was definitely possible if it was felt it would be needed.

Concerns from members also included that the review should be more focused.

Joney Faragher said that the government may have been too focused on punishment rather than support throughout the pandemic.

The chief minister added: ‘A report should draw out all the lessons that would be applicable in the future.’

It all comes after the Public Accounts Committee recommended a full public inquiry be held.

Mr Cannan argued at the time that there would be ‘substantial differences between the cost and scale’ between the two approaches.

He said that a public enquiry would be ‘lengthy, costly and involve a significant number of witnesses’.

Meanwhile, a review would be ‘more fluid and flexible’ at a ‘fraction of the cost’.

Previously, politicians unanimously backed the revised approach to establish a review.