Isle of Man Government has released a framework for the Isle of Man’s long term approach to COVID-19.
The document outlines three key stages (Preparation, Transition and Release) that the Council of Ministers expects to move through as the vaccine rollout increases the Island’s defences, and the UK’s threat profile decreases. It also confirms the longer term plan to pivot from the current ‘Elimination’ strategy, to one of ‘Mitigation’, at which point it is hoped that Island life can resume free from mitigations including border restrictions.
Underpinning this are a set of objectives to support the decision process over the coming months.
The approach currently anticipates that there will be no major changes to the Island’s border position before the end of April 2021, due to the ongoing high threat presented by the UK and that the Island’s own defences are still building. The aim by the end of the initial ‘Preparation’ phase is to be able to move to Border Level 3, which would allow friends and family (who would need to be protected by similar testing and isolation controls to those currently returning residents) to visit the Island.
The document outlines five key vaccination programme milestones that are expected over the next few months:
- Priority One groups first dosage – currently expected by the end of April
- Adult Population first dosage – currently expected by the end of May
- Priority One Groups second dosage complete – currently expected by the end of June
- Completion of the Adult Population – currently expected by the end of July
- Completion of the Entire population– currently expected to be the end of September (subject to evidence of efficacy and safety in those aged 16 and younger, and MHRA approval)
The framework also provides some more visibility for the Island’s Tourism and Travel sector, as it provides an indicative date for ‘Phase Three – Release’ to start from the end of August 2021. This is the latest point that Government currently expects to be in a position to remove all residual restrictions, once the adult population have been offered full dosage of the vaccination and the UK threat is much lower.
Importantly it commits to regular reviews and providing an updated outlook on a regular basis. The document is the starting point of broader discussions and engagement as the knowledge develops, our defences build and hopefully as the overall threat declines, ultimately stabilising to the point where it can be manageable on a long term basis.
Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK commented:
‘All of our current focus is quite rightly on the immediate situation and the elimination of the virus in our community so that we can once again enjoy Island life free of restrictions. We cannot however ignore the longer term and if anything, the current pressures are a reminder that we cannot sustain this strategy for the long term. Over the last couple of months much work has been going on to produce this longer term approach document.
‘There is so much that is changing around us, particularly around our knowledge of the virus and the effectiveness and availability of the vaccines and each passing day changes our position, making us stronger. The publication of this approach signifies out tentative first steps in imagining what the rest of this year might look like.
‘This is in no way a ‘plan’ and even with the best will in the world at this point it is impossible to set a framework in stone – the approach may change, and the dates almost certainly will. This is a working document, and we hope to hone this approach in line with feedback from that the Manx public and our business sectors. Our response to Coronavirus has always been a fine balance across the complex areas of our society, economy and health service, and we have always taken Manx decisions for our Manx situation. Going forward, we will continue to listen to the information coming from around the world and as well as what our people, our businesses and our society think as we approach major decisions.
‘We also know that it is important to provide clarity to our residents, and our business sector as best we can – in particular those that are impacted by ongoing border controls. It is important to note that while the document does outline draft dates, there may be opportunity for us to speed up this timeline and we will continue to assess and monitor the position.’