On the 25th March 2020, the Council of Ministers closed the Isle of Man’s borders. This came into effect on Friday 27th March.
As well as closing the borders, we shut non-essential retail premises, closed bars, restaurants and imposed stringent self-isolation and social distancing rules.
We did all of this for one reason. To save lives. And the preservation of life has been the objective behind every decision that we have made, continue to make, and will make in the future.
We have taken critical decisions to prevent our NHS being overwhelmed and to protect the most vulnerable in our society. We continue to do so based on the very best advice available to us from our clinicians.
It is with that advice in the mind, that I am able to make this announcement today.
Closing the borders, knowing that not all of our residents would make it back, was an extremely difficult decision.
We have now been contacted by over 190 people in the UK and around the world who have asked to come home.
We have been working since the border closure with our clinicians to develop a process where we can manage the return of our residents to the Island clinically safely whilst balancing the need to preserve life and protect our community.
In line with our clinician’s advice from 15 April Isle of Man residents will be able to travel back to the Isle of Man on designated sailings of the Ben-my Chree but they will be subject to a mandatory 14 day quarantine on arrival on the Island.
There will be an application process, it is not a free for all. A particular slot will be given to you.
You will only be allowed to travel back to the Isle of Man if you are not showing any symptoms of Coronavirus. Health checks will take place before anyone travels back to the Island.
Suitable secure accommodation will be provided for those returning during this period. They will not be going back to their own homes or into the community.
Strict social distancing will be in force at the accommodation. People will be required to stay in their rooms, but there will be access to an outside space for a brief period of exercise each day. No visitors will be allowed.
Further information regarding the application process will be released over the next week.
What is critical is that we manage this process in an orderly fashion.
So I need to make clear that if you are a Manx resident, in the UK or overseas, and you want to return to the Island we need to understand your exact circumstances so we can manage your return back to the Island. If you have already contacted us we will get in touch with you directly, if you have not been in touch you need to contact us.
For Manx residents outside of the UK you need to return to the UK on any commercial flight you can. This may mean routing through a different country – you need to make sure you look at all your options.
If there are no commercial flights available then please follow the UK Government’s instructions from the Foreign and Commonwealth office to check eligibility for repatriation flights. In the past week the UK Government has flown around 1,500 people back to the UK, but their full plan will take some time to get people back from countries across the world.
Everyone’s individual circumstances will be different and it will be impossible to plan for each individual scenario that all those scattered around the world may face. You may require support and our team will do our best to help you.
But I must be clear this will not be a short process. We will bring people home but this will be in an orderly managed manner at a time that is right for the Isle of Man.
This approach is tough. But it protects our community and will preserve life while also doing the right thing for those that may, through no fault of their own, have been caught abroad. We will be keeping this under continuous review and if there is any indication that this is impacting our ability to manage the virus on the Isle of Man then it will be ceased.
I have previously described what we are facing is a war with an enemy that we cannot see.
There will be many of us who were looking forward to spending the long Easter weekend with friends and families. This year though we must stay inside.
If we can though, let’s use our technology to keep those relationships. Phone a relative, what’s app a forgotten friend, skype a neighbour.
And now we have todays shout outs:
- Isle of Man railway workers who have been redeployed as security staff and are currently manning the door at Nobles hospital. Thank you.
- To Stan and Pam Clucas of Ballafesson who are allowing people to pick daffodils from their Orchard in return for a smile. Thank you
- And to Simon Fenton at No 16 Victoria Street, delivering Manx meats to those who may be vulnerable and self-isolating. Thank you.
Together as a nation, as one community, we can win this war. Please continue to help us – stay at home.