22nd April 2020

Tory council leader Dave Stewart, and MP, Bob Seely, have been cited in The Telegraph as offering the Isle of Wight as a test bed for ending the lockdown.

The article said that the Isle of Wight’s Conservative councillors were “asking the Government to trial easing coronavirus restrictions on a regional basis”. This was supposedly based on “small infection rates”.

Island Labour is aware, from contacts in the local health and care services, that the current numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases appear to significantly understate infection rates. It is also possible that they understate death rates, as deaths in care homes are not included in Government figures. We have been informed of several cases of the virus in care homes.

Island Labour strongly opposes any early end to the lockdown which takes risks with Islanders’ lives and health. The fact that the Island has a particularly high proportion of elderly residents in high-risk groups makes this proposal all the more troubling.

Island Labour Chair, Julian Critchley, said:

“I hope this story is media nonsense, because it would be deeply concerning if Dave Stewart and Bob Seely were willing to take risks with Islanders’ lives, as the story suggests.”

“We’ve just had the army finish building two new facilities for virus sufferers. We have temporary refrigerated containers at the cemetery for extra bodies, and Island police are tweeting daily about issuing fines to people for leaving their houses. It is very difficult to square those facts, let alone unofficial accounts of the virus spreading in our care homes, with claims about small infection rates allowing the lockdown to end earlier than elsewhere.”

“The only criteria for assessing whether the Island’s lockdown should end is whether it is safe to do so. Not whether it’s convenient for local politicians, or whether the Conservative government think it would be an interesting experiment, in which Islanders would be the unwilling test subjects.”

“We would very strongly oppose the ending of the lockdown on the island before the ending of the national lockdown. Islanders are not guinea pigs.”