Behind the Borders: How the Isle of Man lifted all on-island coronavirus restrictions for a second time

No social distancing, no enforced mask wearing, all businesses open.

It sounds a world away from the UK, but in the centre of the British Isles lies a small island where life is largely 'back to normal’.

Those were the words of the Chief Minister as he confirmed the Isle of Man would, once again, be one of the few places in the world to lift all coronavirus restrictions.

Schools open, businesses operating and pubs packed.

An achievement that largely comes down to one thing, that also happens to be the only restriction still in place - the borders.

A Manx Lockdown

The Manx Government made the decision to close the borders on 23rd March 2020 and to this day they have not been reopened to non-residents.

In July, the borders then reopened to Manx residents who wished to return to the island.Those living here have spent most of 2020 with a COVID-free status, with the coronavirus still present in the Island but in an isolated capacity.

For the majority of last year, anyone arriving into the island has had to spend 14 days in mandatory self-isolation.

Something which is legally enforced by the police with a risk of a prison sentence if breached. 

Cases have therefore continued to be identified in the island as travellers return, but as most remain in isolation they have been traceable and further spread into the community had been stopped.That was until the turn of the new year where an individual tested positive after completing their two weeks in isolation, leading to a 'short, sharp' lockdown.

The Isle of Man's active cases of coronavirus throughout the 25-day 'circuit break' lockdown. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

This also coincided with a change in isolation policy - now three weeks in mandatory quarantine or two weeks with three swab tests on day one, seven and 13.

And now, after just 25 days in lockdown, the Isle of Man once again finds itself in a Manx bubble living freely of restrictions.

Question is, can this bubble be burst?

Something I asked Director of Public Health, Dr Henrietta Ewart at the latest government press briefing.

While the Isle of Man is usually reluctant for publicity on a large scale, this is something many of the Manx public will take great pride in.Having lived here for two years, it's clear how proud people are to say they live on this small rock in the Irish sea.

But it's days like today when people will be hugging their friends and family, drinking down the pub with their work mates and visiting their elderly relatives in a care home, where everyone here will feel especially lucky to be on this side of the water.

Continuing to spare a thought to the majority living a very different life just a few miles away.

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