On the Isle of Man we followed the rules, and ‘everything is back to normal’

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While the UK is in a national lockdown, over here on the Isle of Man everything is back to normal. And I don’t just mean that one or two things are back: everything is open to pre-pandemic standards.

You can have people over for dinner, go to the hairdresser, and hug all your friends. 

But things haven’t always been like this. We got through strict rules and adhered to them. A week after New Year there was a string of new coronavirus cases, and so we were put into a three-week circuit-breaker lockdown.

Those three weeks were similar to what the UK is in now: you could go to the supermarket or chemist, and go out for a walk, but nothing else. 

There was no resistance to it among people I spoke to. We all followed the rules, knowing that that was the fastest way to get out of the lockdown. Having a harsh lockdown with no clear end, like in the UK, is much more mentally demanding. 

Over the course of the pandemic as a whole, I think the island has benefitted from how small it is. When there is a suspected case, contacts can be traced easily and people know to isolate. 

Also, our smallness means we have a very close and connected community. Lots of people in the UK said that coronavirus was the first time they had spoken to their neighbours, but over here it couldn’t be more different. When I had to isolate for two weeks after going to visit my daughters in the UK, I had six friends and neighbours offer to go shopping for me, without me even asking.

I think our tight community has also helped people to stick to the rules. Breaking them means you’re putting others around you at risk, which isn’t an abstract concept here: you know the names and faces of vulnerable people around you who would be in danger.

And besides, if you break the rules, everyone will know about it. 

On Monday morning, I went to a gym class with friends who I hadn’t seen since last year because of the restrictions. We all hugged and said happy new year, and afterwards we went for a coffee together. It was just like old times.

In the evening, my husband and I will be going to the pub to say ‘hello’ to everyone that we haven’t seen for three weeks. I’ve already got an appointment booked with the hairdresser. 

Of course, if there’s a case of someone catching Covid-19 in the community, then we may well go back into another lockdown. I think the difference is that over here we don’t think about that with a sense of dread: we know that it will be short, sharp and very effective, and then it will be back to normal again.

I hope things will be resolved soon in the UK, too. We’ll raise a glass to you tonight. 

Sue Cashmore was talking to Helen Chandler-Wilde

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