Guernsey marks three years since first Covid lockdown

ITV Channel's Roisin Gauson reports...

Today marks three years since Guernsey first announced it was going into lockdown.

It started as a two week closure, which turned into eight weeks of heavy restrictions across the Bailiwick.

The borders closed and businesses were told to shut up shop to help prevent the spread of cases.

At the time, the then Chief Minister, Deputy Gavin St Pier, called the pandemic "the most significant public health challenge since the end of the second world war."

Three years on, the Bailiwick is bouncing back and beginning to return to what is deemed 'the new normal'.

Reflecting on the initial days of lockdown, Deputy St Pier said those first decisions were not easy to make.

He said: "I think the idea of locking down – effectively locking up the community, was the largest single impingement on civil liberties that had taken place since the occupation in the Second World War and the realisation of that bore very heavily on us as we made that decision and then had to announce it to the community.

"It was a very stressful period, but it was one which showed government at its best in terms of being able to act quickly and make the decisions that needed to be made in a timely manner."

St Peter Port was eerily quiet during lockdown periods. Credit: ITV Channel

Decisions made by Guernsey's States paid off as by the end of May, the Bailiwick was one of the first places in Europe to have no active cases.

But even though those looking to the island from elsewhere thought Guernsey eased restrictions early, Deputy St Pier thinks they could have done it even sooner.

He said: "In hindsight, I think we could have come out of the first lockdown a little bit earlier, possibly a week or two earlier. 

"We were very cautious and again it was only really once we’d had that experience that we could revisit it and say actually we probably could have done that a little bit earlier. 

"I think aside from that, the impacts on the community, particularly on the education system and on the mental health and wellbeing of the community, I don’t think were properly understood.  But I think those are the key lessons that would need to be taken account of if the community was ever asked to go through this kind of experience for any kind of reason in the future."

Throughout the lockdowns and restrictions, Guernsey community spirit shone through.

Islanders came together at a distance to support those around them through times of sickness and loneliness.

This connection is one of the more positive aspects of the pandemic that islanders remember, but some say the sparkle may be starting to dim.

Deputy St Pier added: "I think the sense of the community being together, certainly in the initial phases – I think that’s been lost, which is a shame. 

"I think there’s been changes in working practices which still have to play through in terms of the economy and how it functions. Some of that I suspect is very positive in terms of the flexibility and some of it may be less positive in terms of productivity, but those are issues which business and government are going to need to watch to see how that develops in the future."

Three years on and the Bailiwick is bouncing back from the pandemic disruption.

Guernsey's economy has shown signs of improvement and empty properties on the high street have fallen for the first time in the last three years.

The Bailiwick is now getting ready to put its best foot forward as it prepares to welcome the world this summer for July's NatWest International Island Games.

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