Steam Packet Company investigation: Why does it matter?

Over the last week, the 'Covid-free' Isle of Man has found itself with a new cluster of cases.

The index case of this cluster was a Steam Packet Company crew member who tested positive while off-duty.

Since then, the Isle of Man now has 25 active cases with a 'clear train of transmission' back to the crew member.

An investigation has now been launched after reports from within the Steam Packet Company that Manx crews have not been self-isolating when returning from the UK.

The Isle of Man Government has said both Manx and UK crews should be adhering to 'modified isolation' which means they can travel from the vessel to their accommodation, but must remain in isolation when outside of work.

These details are laid out in a key worker corporate direction notice that is granted to Steam Packet crews.

Chief Minister Howard Quayle has previously described the dispute as a 'difference of opinion', with internal talks now underway with the government-owned ferry company.

I pressed the Health Minister David Ashford for updates, and he said 'nobody is going to rush to judgement' but says he feels there 'must have been a fault somewhere in the protocols' as the virus continues to spread.

Since the investigation was launched, a senior officer of the Steam Packet Company has shared a letter with the Isle of Man Examiner, written to the Chief Minister.

In the letter, the worker describes the rules as 'ridiculous' as the crew 'work a rota of a week on, week off' which could mean the crew are in 'constant isolation until the pandemic is over'.

This is because workers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Crews are made up of both Manx and UK workers, with strict rules and restrictions on PPE and mixing on board. Credit: Steam Packet Company

The Isle of Man has been in the UK media numerous times during the pandemic, often for its strict rules particularly on the borders and for those in self-isolation.

Whether that be jailing a group of five welders for breaking quarantine rules or locking up a man for travelling 25-miles across the Irish Sea on a jet ski to visit his girlfriend.

But as has been stated on both sides of the dispute, workers cannot be expected to spend their life in isolation.

So an investigation into what this 'difference of opinion' is and what the outcome turns out to be will be of significance.

However, it should be pointed out that this is not a police investigation.

At this point representatives of the Steam Packet Company continue to meet with the Isle of Man Government and we have been promised that the results of the investigation will be shared.