Life returns to normal on Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man as stricter rules stem coronavirus – iNews

It may seem hard to comprehend that some parts of the British Isles have been able to attend gigs, hug their friends and eschew social distancing altogether for at least the past month.

While most of the UK grapples with the gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions while still tackling the coronavirus outbreak, the three Crown Dependencies, the Isle of Man, and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey are experiencing near to normal life.

The three self-administering islands have been free to take their own approach to subduing the outbreak since the first cases hit in March, spelling out a different kind of lockdown for its residents – and frictions between some of the islands.

Isle of Man

(Photo: UKPhoenix79/CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo: UKPhoenix79/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The dependency located in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man, made the decision to close its border to almost everyone on 27 March to control the spread of the virus. It seems that the quick response paid off, with no new Covid-19 cases among the island’s 85,000 residents for more than 50 days running.

The last case on the island was recorded on 20 May, with 24 deaths recorded among its residents in total. Because of its early lockdown, the island scrapped social distancing back in June. By the 15 June, residents could hug friends and enjoy pubs, restaurants, shops and gyms without any spacing restrictions.

In order to allow its residents to enjoy near pre-coronavirus levels of freedom, the island has agreed to keep its borders firmly shut. “The IOM has taken a step towards opening its borders – but not really ‘opening up’ as the partial relaxation of the closed borders regime applies to residents only,” Marian Kenny from the Isle of Man’s Cabinet Office told i. “There are still strict restrictions on incoming non-residents. Island residents [can] visit the UK and beyond if they are prepared to self-isolate for 14 days on their return, and will replace the repatriation process.

“Isle of Man residents who wish to return to the Island from Monday 20 July must have a Manx Entry Permit, granted by demonstrating residency via an online application process. Access for non-residents will remain tightly restricted.”

Richard Reid, a psychologist based on Mann, said the authorities have been “very efficient in implementing lockdown”.

“Given that IoM is an island, we were quickly able to close our borders and to limit the spread of the infection,” the 45-year-old told i. “The authorities have been very efficient in implementing lockdown, providing practical support and ongoing updates, as well as managing the gradual reintroduction of normal life.

“Even during the most extreme period of lockdown, when we were only able to leave the home for essential travel and an hour of exercise per day, the fact that you are never far away from the countryside or the sea has almost certainly helped in underpinning people’s mental health and overall morale. It has also allowed the kids to run off any pent up steam in a way that they would never have been able to do when we lived in London.”

Having space and fresh air may have been paramount for the wellbeing of its residents, but its hospitality and tourism sector has had to rally for survival amid the crisis. Tiffany Kerruish, 43-year-old co-founder of The Fynoderee Distillery on the island, turned her hand to making hand sanitiser as its craft gin and vodka orders dwindled.

“As producers of craft gin and vodka suddenly facing the loss of all our on-trade customers over-night due to the hospitality lockdown, and loss of supply to many of our UK retailers, this has been an extremely challenging time,” she told i. “If it wasn’t for the very fast pivot to producing hand sanitiser, things would have been bleak.”

Ms Kerruish pivoted to making hand sanitiser to weather the outbreak (Photo: Simon Park)

“The Isle of Man found its traditional supply chain of hand sanitiser had completely dried up and for a period of a couple of months we were the only supply to the Island, supplying the local hospitals, essential and emergency services and care homes to begin with, and then businesses and households as lockdown measures were eased.

Thanks to the need for sanitiser, the distillery has been kept in business. “So far we have produced over 10,000 litres of hand sanitiser which has all been used locally. This production is now scaling back as the crisis subsides, but can be started up again should the need arise – fingers crossed not,” she added.


(Photo: UKPhoenix79/CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo: UKPhoenix79/CC BY-SA 3.0)

There is one exception to the Isle of Man’s border restrictions – fellow crown dependency, the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

The two nations agreed to open up an air bridge, with more than 4,000 journeys booked from the opening date of 22 July. The Chief Minister of Guernsey Gavin St Pier said it would offer people from both territories “a chance to get away this summer without the need to self-isolate,” BBC News reported, with Isle of Man Chief Minister Howard Quayle agreeing the decision was made on “how well both communities have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Among Guernsey’s 67,052 residents, there have been a total of 252 positives cases recorded, and 16 Covid-related deaths. By 30 April there were no active cases on the island, and by 20 June, Guernsey removed all social distancing requirements for businesses or restrictions on gatherings.

Operations manager Michael, 25, moved from London to his hometown in Guernsey to navigate lockdown. He believes the success of the island’s measures is down to its scrupulous track and trace policy. “Guernsey was very proactive with track and trace very early and adopted a 14-day quarantine for people arriving in the island which likely did a lot to slow the spread. I think the UK definitely could have learned from the quarantine for arrivals,” he told i.

“Life is basically completely back to normal here. I’m working from home, but people working locally are in offices. There’s a lot more hand sanitiser around and people don’t shake hands or hug like they used to, but that’s about it,” he added.

However, the air bridge plans could encounter complications if Guernsey agrees to an air bridge between the Balliwick and Iceland. Guernsey’s Chief Minister, Gavin St Pier, will speak to the Icelandic ambassador on Monday to discuss plans for travel. While Iceland has been praised for its approach to the virus, recording just 10 deaths out of more than 1800 cases, there are still 21 active cases in the Nordic nation.


Notably, the larger Channel Island of Jersey is not included in any air bridge plans. The first case of coronavirus in the Balliwick of Jersey was confirmed on 10 March when a person tested positive on the island after returning from Italy, with the island of 100,000 people reaching its peak on 6 April with 29 cases of the virus confirmed.

While the island ushered in its second phase of lockdown easing on 12 June – permitting libraries, bars, theatres and concert venues to open – its relaxed approached to testing travellers could cause problems.

Cars travel by the seafront in St Helier, on the island of Jersey (Photo: Getty)
Cars travel by the seafront in St Helier, on the island of Jersey (Photo: Getty)

While the island rapidly shut down its borders and announced there were no known active cases on the island by 30 June, it has experienced a recent bump in cases after opening its borders on 3 July. Five new active cases of coronavirus have been confirmed since the date, with two asymptomatic people testing positive after arriving on the island via a ferry from Poole.

Currently, the Bailiwick is testing arrivals to the island and letting them roam around the island until their results return – with the contact tracing team left to do the heavy lifting.

However, some of the island’s policy approaches have been praised by residents. Jersey’s Nightingale hospital opened on 11 May, accommodating up to 180 patients needing critical care, a much-needed resource for residents who often have to get chartered flights to be treated in the UK, equipping the island if a second wave occurs. Additionally, Jersey’s broadband lines were boosted to 1Gbps for all residents, the fastest speed currently available through fibre-optic cables.

Jensen Nixon, Jersey resident and CEO of Fintech company WARM, told i the move was essential to cater for the surge of residents working from home. “The Jersey government effectively provided a telecom backbone and for everybody to work remotely from home,” he said. “It was essential that we were wired up for remote working. The Government actually prepped for this online living. There was online learning for school kids from day one and virtual classrooms. It allowed us all to get into a routine and have that mental welfare.”

Jersey resident and businessman Jensen Nixon praised the response (Photo: Supplied by source)
Jersey resident and businessman Jensen Nixon praised the response (Photo: Supplied by source)

Across the islands, residents have said it is their close community bonds that have helped them rally together so efficiently amid the crisis. For Mr Reid who lives in the Isle of Man, the neighbourly spirit has made the lockdown period markedly brighter. “In some ways, it has seemed strange to be hearing so much terrible news coming from UK and further afield when we have gotten off fairly lightly in terms of casualties,” he said.

“I am also aware that living in such a small and close knit community has helped. Seeing a friendly face on my daily exercise and experiencing the ways in which people have rallied round each other definitely restores your faith in humanity,” he added.


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