Chief Minister Alf Cannan has said his gov will support an independent review of decisions made throughout the pandemic, but has stopped short of supporting a full public inquiry.
The Public Accounts Committee called for a public inquiry to be held into the last administration’s handling of the pandemic from the first cases being confirmed in China in December 2019 through to this September.
In his response to the PAC recommendations, Mr Cannan said: ‘It is clear, with the benefit of hindsight, that some matters could have been handled differently – certainly during the initial emergency response – but our overriding thought process had the protection of life on the Isle of Man at its heart. However, it is important that actions are reviewed and openly discussed, in order to gain a full understanding of their impact and consequences on our island residents. It is also imperative to ensure there is a clear record of events, should the island ever be faced with similar circumstances.
‘In this respect, the Council of Ministers considers that the commissioning of an independent review into Government’s handling of pandemic would be equally as effective in determining lessons learned.’
The Chief added that the review ‘must be open and transparent’ and should include public input. He also says that CoMin would support this ‘being undertaken under the auspices of the PAC (with an independent advisor)’.
However, his response also says that a public inquiry ‘might possibly take two to three years, to complete, at a cost of several million pounds to the taxpayer’. Mr Cannan added: ‘We are uncertain as to what benefits will be achieved for the island by conducting such a lengthy and potentially expensive inquiry that may not otherwise be achieved through an Independent Review.’
While the support for a full review of the decisions made during the pandemic, it will be up for Tynwald members to decide whether to back a full inquiry. Speaker Juan Watterson, who is currently the chair of PAC, and former MHK Chris Robertshaw have both been steadfast in their opinion that there needs to be a full independent inquiry.
Mr Robertshaw in particular has said that the events that occurred at Abbotswood, where over 20 people lost their lives, the decision by gov to ignore the advice of the island’s top doctor Dr Rosalind Ranson and lock down earlier than they did, what happened with Dr Rachel Glover and the treatment of Steam Packet crew members, amongst other issues, all need a full inquiry to ensure we know what happened and why.