Good afternoon everyone
It has been a perfect summer’s day in the Isle of Man.
Temperatures have hit over 25 degrees Celsius – or 77 Fahrenheit in old money - the hottest day in nearly two years.
I hope you’ve been enjoying the sunshine.
Like me, you probably find yourself viewing life in terms of before and after COVID – a new ‘BC’ and ‘AC’ for our time.
It is the most extraordinary period most of us have ever lived through – so it is bound to be a defining event.
Before COVID - our advice to stay safe and healthy on a day like today would be about wearing high-factor sunscreen and staying hydrated.
Now, in the After COVID period, that advice still applies – but has been eclipsed by the spectre of pandemic.
We are in very fortunate position – and we want to keep it that way. To do so we must ALL act responsibly.
Today’s news is positive but it is Government’s responsibility to maintain vigilance. It’s our job, while fostering freedom, to keep the health of the public in clear focus.
To keep a weather eye on the bigger picture; to scan the horizon for potential threats. To listen to that nagging voice in the back of the head which says – “this might not be over”.
Stay Responsible sets out how we ensure that together, we move forward on our journey to the new normal.
Normal these days is not what is was ‘BC’ – Before COVID.
We’re navigating uncharted territory, making decisions stage by stage - based on the prevailing conditions - our objectives for the Island to recover from the pandemic, and on clinical advice.
We cannot do any more than that - we don’t have a crystal ball.
There will always be pros and cons to consider as we look at the steps which lie ahead. Straightforward ‘either-or’ decisions are easy. But things aren’t always so binary.
There will be many grey areas to come. When doing the right thing will be our aim. But agreeing on what the right thing is, won’t be easy.
But while the horizon may be hazy, our focus remains unclouded - to make clear decisions in the best interests of our Island.
This week we launched our long term strategy for the new Manx normal.
We have stepped out of your lives - so its title ‘Stay Responsible’ puts the onus on each of us to do the right thing. But what does it mean?
It means continuing to practise regular hand-washing and to ensure high standards of hygiene - at home and at work.
It means respecting the decision of those who still prefer to stay mainly at home and avoid crowds.
It means we pay special attention to the needs of those who are vulnerable - and take measures to protect them.
As each day passes without a new case, it is natural that we feel a greater sense of freedom and more confident that - as a community - we have defeated the virus.
It is natural that we feel proud that we have pushed it back from our shores through our collective efforts.
Our prize has been an end to restrictions on personal freedom, no more social distancing and our society coming back together.
We can meet our friends, go out and socialise, gather in a crowd and enjoy leisure activities again.
The ‘Manx Bubble’ is a really nice place to be!
We promised to review the Borders policy every two weeks from 25 June. Today the Council of Ministers did just that.
We have agreed a five-stage framework for the transition from closed borders - Level 5 - where we are now - through to borders open and unrestricted travel – Level 1.
This framework sets out how we will move - in a safe and controlled way - from one end to the other, step by step.
We monitor the situation here and in the UK on a rolling basis. We are carefully considering how and when increased movement through the border may be allowed.
Today, the Council of Ministers looked closely at Level 4, and asked, are we are ready to move to it?
First, let me explain what it means:
Level 4 will allow non-essential travel for Isle of Man residents and essential workers.
There will be no limit on numbers - as there is currently - and travel will be by air or sea.
Level 4 will involve a compulsory 14-day isolation period on return. And a declaration by the person travelling that they are in good health.
Self-isolation and contact-tracing in Level 4 will remain the main defence against transmission of the virus in the community – if it returns to our shores.
When we reach Level 4, residents can visit the UK and beyond - as long as they are prepared to self-isolate on return.
I should stress, Level 4 will not allow for non-residents to visit us.
But it recognises that many of our people are willing to make the sacrifice of quarantine, if they can travel to see their loved ones. We don’t want to stand in their way any longer than necessary.
We have decided what. But we are not yet quite ready to ‘press GO’.
We need to follow the transmission of coronavirus in the UK for a little longer, and be sure that reducing levels of infection have become a firm trend.
The Council of Ministers will consider all this again next Thursday and I hope to be able to bring you more news then.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges.
It has required an unprecedented response, and produced unusual, unique, bespoke solutions.
Today I am delighted to announce that the Isle of Man and Guernsey are to form an air bridge. A corridor allowing travel between our islands for our citizens.
Neither island has had any active cases for some time now. We believe this bridge is a reasonable - and safe - proposition.
This idea has been batted about in public for over a week now. There has been a lot to discuss and agree. We have looked at it from all angles and concluded there are many potential benefits and few risks.
A bit of an offshore island no-brainer.
It is both a reciprocal arrangement and a commercial opportunity for our two islands. It will allow residents with itchy feet to get off their respective Islands and visit another!
Our residents can enjoy the attractions of Guernsey and sample different shops, restaurants and beaches. It will give businesses in both Islands a welcome boost.
We look forward to welcoming Guernsey residents to visit our glens and hills, our cycling trails, our spectacular coastal walks and our unique heritage sites.
There might be interest among sporting clubs looking for fresh competition to visit each other.
And more hugs are on the horizon for those with family and friends in Guernsey!
This will be a fully commercial operation, operated by the Guernsey-owned airline Aurigny with two flights a week envisaged to start with.
The plan is to start in mid-July although the date of the first flight has yet to be finalised.
Travel agencies at both ends will work together on the marketing and booking process, and I am sure will explore options for accommodation packages to build around the flights.
It is an exciting and – that overused word again – unprecedented opportunity.
Guernsey and the Isle of Man are in a fairly exclusive club. Islands that have pursued similar policies - such as closing the borders - to arrive at the enviable position we are both in today.
Our involvement as governments has been only in approving and facilitating the project.
I hope it is welcomed - that people who may have developed cabin fever during the lockdown can go and stretch their legs on further shores.
It is an alliance borne entirely of the pandemic. It has required imagination, optimism and a can-do attitude to get off the ground. We wish the initiative all the best.
There will be more details in the coming days and weeks.
I know there will be different views among the great Manx public – some will welcome it with open arms, others may feel it is not for them.
We have asked everyone to Stay Responsible. To do the right thing for yourself and your family.
Remember, that we all have different circumstances, live our lives in our own way, and have our own, valid views on what is right.
Please respect one another. And don’t forget the sun cream!
Thank you and good afternoon.