Behind the Borders: The day the Isle of Man started to lift restrictions

It's been four weeks to the day since the Chief Minister announced the Isle of Man borders would close.

In that time, the Island has been fighting its own battle with the coronavirus.

There have been deaths in the community, and sacrifices made Island-wide.

But today, the government has decided to take its first step towards normality.

18

The number of deaths from coronavirus in the Isle of Man.

"Next stage" of the plan

During the Isle of Man Government's daily press conference, the Chief Minister announced that it was down to the resilience of the Manx public that has allowed them to make a step forward.

While, they say, the priority remains to be the preservation of life, it was decided by the Council of Ministers that now is the time to loosen restrictions.

From today (Friday 24th April):

  • No time-limit on how long people are allowed out and no longer needs to be for essentials only.

  • Construction workers, tradesmen, window cleaners and gardeners may return to work.

  • Hardware stores and builders merchants can start operating.

  • Waste and recycling points to reopen.

  • All of the above is permitted providing social distancing is maintained during these activities.

The Isle of Man Director of Public Health, Dr Henrietta Ewart, highlighted the negatives that can come with keeping people in isolation for an extended period of time.

Despite these new guidelines reflecting a loosening of restrictions, the Chief Minister has insisted it does not make the Island any more nonrestrictive than neighbouring countries.

The UK has continued to allow construction work to take place for example.

But this does not take away from the Isle of Man being one of the first places to start to relax some of its original guidelines.

The choice is yours

Despite lifting restrictions, the Chief Minister has insisted it is still a choice to return to work.

And that includes the current biggest infrastructure project on the Island - the Douglas Promenade.

Work is scheduled to continue on the promenade from 4th May.

But for some, the choice is not worth the risk.

I am a self employed maintenance man. I have not been working for over four weeks now because of the coronavirus lockdown. I have recently had confirmation that I will receive financial assistance from the government scheme MERA. I have the opportunity to return to work. I have maintained extra vigilant during the last four weeks because my partner is a front line nurse working in a government care home. If I lose my financial support because of this, so be it. I will survive without, whilst the frail elderly at the care home will not survive if they get exposed."

Mike Sandles

There's no doubt this day is highly significant in the Island's fight against coronavirus.

And many will question whether or not the move is a rushed one.

But the Isle of Man is one of the first to run the risk, and it will take some time before we see whether it truly will pay off.