Behind the Borders: The day the Isle of Man drawbridge came up

"If you don't like it, there's a boat in the morning".

A common phrase used by the Manx public, and something which remains true for now... but you won't be allowed back.

As the Isle of Man reporter for ITV Granada Reports, effectively becoming stranded on the Island is not something I, or anyone, could have predicted.

But as of today, the Isle of Man Government decided it was time to close all borders, as the coronavirus continues to spread across the Island.

The last passenger ferry docked at 5:30am this morning as the Ben-my-Chree brought in the final arrivals for the foreseeable future.

Despite being a separate jurisdiction, the lockdown rules on the Isle of Man closely follow those in the UK.

  • Borders - There will be no commercial flights or aircraft permitted to land at Ronaldsway Airport and no passenger arrivals on the boat. Patient transfer flights will continue and freight will still be delivered.

  • Shops - All non-essential shops are closed. Remaining open are supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, pet shops, vets and post offices.

  • Social Distancing - If an individual or anyone in the household has symptoms they must stay at home. If not, you are only allowed to leave the house for shopping for basic necessities, a 'brief period' of exercise a day, providing care to a vulnerable person, moving under 18s between homes of separated parents and travelling to and from work if working from home isn't possible.

Currently, only those who are advised by the Island's 111 call centre are being tested in the Isle of Man.

A drive-through test facility has been setup at the TT Grandstand, following the news that this year's races will be cancelled.

The tests are then sent to a facility in Manchester and the results take up to 72 hours to come back.

But the Health and Social Care Minister, David Ashford MHK, has said the plan is to have an operational facility on-island by mid-April.

"Whichever way you throw us, we will stand"

Living on an Island with such a tight-knit community becomes evermore apparent during times of crisis.

From the Manx government, a dedicated 111 call centre has been setup receiving between 800-1000 calls a day with queries and concerns.

And as any Manx local would predict, a dedicated Facebook group has been setup where discussions continue around the clock, offering help, advice and guidance.

Much like those in the UK, many Manx residents also came out of their houses at 8:00pm to show appreciation for all the health workers and carers tackling the virus.

Chief Minister, Howard Quayle MHK, made the lockdown announcement during one of the daily Isle of Man Government press conferences. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

In the Chief Minister's announcement, he explained it was after seeing the strain that the NHS is under in the UK that led him to implement a lockdown.

The Isle of Man is far smaller, therefore resources are far more limited.

As a result, the lockdown will remain in place for an initial twenty-one days, but he has made it clear this will be under review and could be extended.

As the final arrivals walked out of the sea terminal this morning, it suddenly became apparent that the drawbridge had come up.

There's no doubt the Isle of Man Government was hesitant in making such a momentous, historic decision.

But for many, it's the natural next step to what feels like only the beginning of what will be a long journey with coronavirus.