The number of people who have signed an on-line petition opposing the Island being used as a test area to leave lock-down earlier than the rest of the UK has surged to over 2,000 after the highest daily jump in local Covid-19 infections was reported yesterday.
Fifteen new Covid-19 cases were confirmed at St Mary’s Hospital on Sunday, taking the total to 101, with a further fatal case pushing the death toll up to 22. The total number of patients who have recovered stands at 21. The true number of infections and deaths on the Island will be considerably higher, as the figures do not include those in non-NHS settings such as care homes.
Over the weekend Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely tweeted a link to an article he had written for the Daily Telegraph, in which he described his thoughts on how lockdown lifting can be piloted on the Isle of Wight. The article originally appeared last Thursday, only hours after the MP emailed the IW Observer on Wednesday evening saying he was ‘not sure’ whether Covid-19 restrictions should be lifted earlier on the Island than the rest of the UK.
Mr Seely’s comments to the IW Observer were in response to another article in the Daily Telegraph published last Tuesday: ‘Britain’s islands ready to break coronavirus lockdown and become guinea pigs for contact tracing technology’.
Last Tuesday’s story quoted both Mr Seely and Dave Stewart, the Leader of the IW Council, as in favour of early lifting of restrictions on the Island. We contacted both for comment. Mr Stewart was adamant the Daily Telegraph’s story did not represent his views. He said: “Can I be clear? I do not see the Island being used as any form of ‘guinea pig’ for anything”.
Mr Seely’s response was less emphatic. He said the idea that isolated communities could lift restrictions early were raised by an academic. He added: “I am not sure I agree with him.”
We reported Mr Seely’s words in good faith. Yet his article published in the national media the following day, clarifies his view as: “The elements for planning lockdown easing, as well as long-term COVID suppression, can be put together on a measurable scale – in miniature if you like – on the Island.”
Cllr Lucioni, a key worker in the care sector said: “This is a truly preposterous idea. The Islands’ higher elderly demographic will be at risk of far greater mortality rates than an alternative area with a younger population. The Island population should not be considered guinea pigs, just because we’re isolated by a stretch of water. The suggestion we must bear the brunt of such a risk is causing more stress to fellow IOW residents.
“With no true figures of Covid-19 infection and deaths in care homes and with our community, I believe the idea is hugely risky for our older and vulnerable population. Key workers and volunteers should not be put under more pressure with further strain on St Mary’s and other health care sectors.
“In essence, this idea is ill thought out and dangerously disrespectful to Islanders. We must stop it. I would at least like to see the exit strategy however I do not believe there is one at present.”
Whilst some on social media agreed with the idea of an early release from restrictions, a number of Islanders accused Mr Seely of a lack of openness, pointing to it being published behind a national newspaper’s paywall, despite the article saying: “The best way forward now to keep public trust, as MPs and ministers know, is through transparency”. Others were concerned about a lack of local consultation.
We have contacted Mr Seely and asked him to respond to the concerns expressed by Islanders and to clarify whether he is being paid for writing the article.
You can sign the petition opposing the Island being used as a test-bed for early lock-down here.