Behind the Borders: Experiencing the Manx lockdown vs the English lockdown

Credit: ITV Granada Reports/PA Images

I never thought a very simple shot of Douglas high street would be viewed 200,000 times around the world.

The sheer sight of people walking in the street without masks, chatting to people as they go has led to online reactions ranging from people being reduced to tears right through to people questioning the credibility of the footage.

It really does show it's even the everyday occurrences that people across the world are missing.

Something which the Isle of Man is lucky enough to have back.

Having spent time in both the Isle of Man and the UK over the past 10 months, there's no doubt the reaction to the experience has been very different.

The Isle of Man strategy to tackle coronavirus has been many things, but mainly viewed from the outside as highly stringent and often described as being authoritarian.

I'd recently travelled back to England for Christmas to visit family, something which I was allowed to do though the Crown Dependency travel corridor, and at the time, was travelling from a Covid-free island.

Travelling through the North West into the Midlands was quite something, seeing pubs and restaurants open in some areas, then a few miles later entering an almost deserted town - witnessing the 2020 tier system in action.

I saw a country that was tired - tired of being told what they can and can't do while others continued to flout the rules, tired of only seeing loved ones through a screen and tired of watching the total number of deaths creep towards 100,000.

It didn't take long to realise how much freedom had truly been taken away and how naive a lot of the Manx people were to what life was like just a few miles over the water.

Leaving the Isle of Man on route to Manchester. Credit: Joshua Stokes

On 3 January, I then made the journey back to the island knowing that new cases had been identified over New Year from an unknown source.

Something which then put the Island into a second lockdown, after spread in the community had been confirmed for the first time since restrictions were lifted originally back in June 2020.

At just 16 active cases, the Island went from no restrictions to all restrictions - social distancing, face coverings, all non-essential businesses closed, schools closed, no gatherings outside the household.

A huge change in lifestyle overnight, but one where the response was like no other.

The memory that stands out most was seeing a woman walking her dog on the beach, with nobody around her out in the open still deciding to wear a mask - and this was common.

A lot of the salary support schemes were switched back on, helping businesses through what was already set to be a tough January.

Like the previous lockdown, it certainly did feel like a community effort to keep the virus under control with very little pushback and the majority staying at home.

Compliance of the rules and the fear of further spread runs so deep into the Manx public, that within just 25 days of lockdown the Isle of Man was once again able to lift all on-Island restrictions.

Active cases in the Isle of Man during the 25-day circuit break lockdown. Credit: ITV News

"Why can't the UK do the same as the Isle of Man?"

This is one of the most common questions I'm asked.

Firstly, the Isle of Man is not part of the UK.

The Isle of Man has its own government meaning it has the power to make its own decisions on many different topics, in this case when reacting to a global pandemic.

The population of the Island is around 85,000, similar to that of the borough of Redditch or Gosport, making it somewhat more manageable leading to different strategies to tackle the virus.

There's no question, the Manx response to the pandemic has been led by measures on the borders, alongside strict quarantine for the few that are allowed in.

Now, only recently, also backed up by testing those in isolation.

Cabinet Office also make regular checks to those self-isolating, reinforced by police following up on anyone breaching COVID rules.

As a result, compliance of the rules has therefore been very high amongst the public.

Which statistically, as one of the safest places to live in the British Isles, seems to be a common trait here.

So are all the methods used by the Isle of Man replicable in the UK? No they're not.

But one thing is certain - the elimination strategy used in the Isle of Man has worked at keeping the majority of the Manx population safe and one that has allowed life once again to return to some sort of normality - something that can only be said for very few places.