Behind the Borders: 14 days in Manx Isolation

It's the topic that splits the Manx community - keep the borders closed, or open them up.

But on 20th July, the Isle of Man government took its first steps in allowing Manx residents to travel beyond the borders and return to the island

For me, like many on the island, it was the first opportunity to visit the UK since the beginning of lockdown in March and after what was 60 days without a new case of coronavirus, it was a risk the government were willing to take.

Travelling back and forth meant a number of things: masks, social distancing and hand-sanitiser to name a few.

This was something that was enforced departing the Isle of Man at the Ronaldsway Airport, right the way up to walking through the front door into quarantine.

Returning to the island

Following the government's continuously cautious approach, there's a series of restrictions in place in the Isle of Man to any Manx returning residents re-entering the Island.

Most notably, self-isolation.

This is an integral part of the government's track and trace programme, keeping the virus contained in one area while effectively being able to contact trace an individual's movements.

Part of this requires residents to fill out a Manx Entry Permit and a Landing Card, detailing where they will be self-isolating as a legal requirement.

Something that was checked before boarding in the UK and then arriving in the Isle of Man.

Landing card checks entering the Isle of Man at Ronaldsway Airport.

Police also have the power to coordinate random checks on people, giving a maximum penalty of three months in custody and up to a £10,000 fine, if lockdown rules are broken.

So far there have been over 4000 people travelling back into the Isle of Man and various checks have been made.

During my time in isolation, I received one phone call on the first day to check that I was self-isolating.

My next contact with the 111 COVID team was to book a swab test after seven days in isolation, which is a recent adaptation that changes the way in which islanders can isolate.

Self-isolation to 'modified isolation'

Originally the rules were fairly simple - if you are a Manx resident and wish to re-enter the Isle of Man, then you would be required to self-isolate in your place of residence without leaving for a total of fourteen days.

However, this has been reduced to seven days, followed by a swab test.

If the test then comes back negative, then the remainder of the original fourteen days changes into what the government is calling ‘modified isolation’.

In short, ‘modified isolation’ means:

You can:

  • Return to work, providing these are ‘non-customer facing roles’.

  • Shop for food, drink and medicine.

  • Exercise outdoors, away from crowds.

  • Remain socially distant from others.

You can’t:

  • Visit pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas.

  • Use public transport.

  • Visit hospitals or nursing homes.

Each test costs £50 to take, with the value for money for a lot of people being largely dependent on whether the individual can return to work or not.

But at least the government have now given people the choice so some people in the construction or outdoor trades are able to return to work.

Douglas Bay flying into the Isle of Man

Coming to the end of the fourteen days, in my case it certainly does seem like a highly effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Living alone means I'm not coming into contact with anybody and even after testing negative, I continue to be away from others.

The question remains whether the self-isolation will be just as effective if someone is self-isolating with others who are free to go about their day-to-day, because that is allowed.

As I understand it, those isolating are expected to be in their own space away from household members, while also keeping everything they touch clean, including communal areas.

But given the highly contagious nature of the virus, I cannot help but wonder how much of an increased risk isolating with others is for spread to occur in the community.

Either way, since opening the borders the Isle of Man has recorded three new 'isolated cases' of coronavirus.

Cases which the government always expected to arrive at some point.

Although at the time of writing there is no spread in the community, making the Isle of Man self-isolation policy, so far, a success.