Government accused of attempt to 'smear' Isle of Man Steam Packet

Saturday 29th May 2021 3:18 am
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Chief Minister Howard Quayle was forced to defend his government against accusations of a ’smear campaign’ against the Steam Packet.

In the House of Keys on Tuesday Mr Quayle apologised for ’confusion’ over Steam Packet safety rules when the Isle of Man was plunged into a Covid-19 outbreak in February.

Mr Quayle said mistakes were made on both sides amid confusion over isolation protocols and safety measures for Steam Packet crew. He apologised for government errors but said there were mistakes on both sides.

Bill Shimmins (Middle) accused the government of a ’smear campaign’ against the Steam Packet over initial comments about isolation protocols.

The chief minister said: ’Yes, for the isolation period, I can apologise for statements made but those statements were as a result of evidence given to the Council of Ministers so we genuinely believed that was the case.’

Mr Quayle’s statement came after publication of a report that looked into the lead-up to a Covid-19 outbreak in February that was linked to the Steam Packet.

The Isle of Man went into its third lockdown after community transmission was confirmed.

The company and the government took conflicting positions on rules about the isolation for crews.

The government has accepted the report’s findings, which highlighted mistakes that were made.

Mr Quayle told MHKs: ’It is clear that we didn’t get everything right, and the report confirms that. We weren’t always as joined-up as we should have been and mistakes were made.’

Chris Robertshaw (Douglas East) demanded a ’sincere apology’, saying Mr Quayle’s comments at the time had ’seemed to indicate the blame lay with the Steam Packet’.

The report was carried out by Stephen Hinds of the Treasury’s Audit Advisory section, but some of the findings are set to be referred to the IoM Ship Registry for further investigation.

Mr Quayle conceded there had been confusion over what directions the Steam Packet had received over crew isolation and safety protocols and that was why he commissioned the report ’to establish the facts’.

’It was important we understood what additional measures were needed to reduce the risk of the virus entering our island, and to ensure any lessons to prevent a recurrence were learned,’ he said.

’It is clear that we didn’t get everything right, and the report confirms that.

’It was clear following the initial case and the subsequent issue around isolation of Isle of Man crew members that there had been confusion and misunderstandings and the findings of the review confirm this.’

The report found that from December, documentation had been clearer on isolation requirements but ’due to the way they were worded, they could not be relied upon for Isle of Man crew,’ said Mr Quayle.

Many of the recommendations in the report have already been implemented, the chief minister said, but he added: ’I accept that there remain unanswered questions - and issues which are for others to answer.

’I have therefore referred the report to the Isle of Man Ship Registry, to consider whether any further investigation is required by them or others.’

Mr Quayle defended the actions of the Cabinet Office in the face of criticism from many MHKs. He praised staff for the work over their past year, while acknowledging mistakes had been made over the Steam Packet issue. But he said that was with the benefit of hindsight.

’Prior to the February 2021 outbreak there had not been an outbreak involving the Steam Packet’s Manx crew,’ said Mr Quayle.

’Issues have been identified by the review that relate to each party and I am confident that the recommendations will support further improvements going forwards.’

He added: ’The management of risk has already been significantly improved compared to the position at the time of the February outbreak.’

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