'Remarkable' Covid-free community just 146 km from devastated nation

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·4-min read

To its southwest is a nation that recorded more than 8,000 daily coronavirus cases at the beginning of 2021.

And to its east, 146km away by flight or just 26km at its closest point, a virus-riddled nation edges towards 4 million cases since the pandemic began.

Yet the Isle of Man, positioned between Ireland and the UK in the Irish Sea, has all but eliminated the virus and has been without a locally-acquired case since January 18, while also being virus-free in the community for months on end during 2020.

Its remarkable feat shares striking similarities to the achievements of Australia, where like the Isle of Man, life is back to relative normality.

Face masks are a rare sight among the island’s 85,000 residents, while pubs are packed and businesses open – a stark contrast to the UK where a third nationwide lockdown takes its toll on its 65 million residents.

Shoppers in May after the Isle of Man eradicated the virus from within the community. Source: Getty
Shoppers in May after the Isle of Man eradicated the virus from within the community. Source: Getty

And in similar fashion to Australia – it was a bold move taken by the island’s government that has been hailed for their success, a decision the Morrison government themselves were praised for.

On March 23, the Isle of Man completely closed its borders to all arrivals.

By April it began lifting lockdown restrictions and by May, they had successfully eradicated the virus, with just 336 cases.

Two months later the government decided to allow Isle of Man residents to return.

The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea between northern England and Ireland. Source: Google Maps
The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea between northern England and Ireland. Source: Google Maps

Returning travellers are made to undergo a two-week self-isolation enforced by police, and while cases from infected returnees have kept the overall case total slowly ticking over, they were contained thanks to the measures implemented.

Still to this date, non-residents are barred from entering unless they are essential arrivals.

Isle of Man squashes outbreak with snap lockdown

A small outbreak in January after a returned traveller tested positive after their two-week quarantine prompted a 25-day lockdown however authorities managed to suppress the virus’s spread and lifted the lockdown on February 1.

“We will be back to the enviable position that we enjoyed for so long,” Chief Minister Howard Quayle said ahead of the lifting of the lockdown.

Mr Quayle has previously praised the island’s residents, which he believes have been very “patriotic” in their approach to following the rules.

"We've gone for total elimination rather than living with [the virus].... we drove it off the island [with the first lockdown],” he told Sky News.

He called the latest stretch without Covid-19 in the community as a “remarkable achievement”.

A video of carefree patrons inside a pub on the island celebrating their release from restrictions on Sunday gained traction on Twitter after it was shared by ITV’s Isle of Man reporter Joshua Stokes.

The video was quickly inundated with comments from envious Brits whose own government have been heavily criticised for their handling of the pandemic.

“So jealous,” one person wrote.

“Just a small stretch of water between us and such a difference,” another said.

Some downplayed the success of the Isle of Man noting its geographical advantage, however pointed out Britain itself is an island.

And while the sheer number of arrivals coming into the UK on a daily basis presented the UK government with a far more complex challenge to what the Isle of Man faced, its residents couldn’t help but imagine what could have been.

“It is a shambles that we didn’t do this for the whole of the UK,” one user said.

“This was achievable for all but the UK government just made every wrong decision possible,” another said.

The Isle of Man's capital Douglas. Source: Getty
The Isle of Man's capital Douglas. Source: Getty

While the island revels in its success, Director of Public Health, Dr Henrietta Ewart warned the island cannot let its guard down in its fight against the virus, particularly with new, highly-infectious strains circulating in the UK and further afield.

“We can’t relax and that’s why particularly our risk is coming over the border so everybody who does come across the border really has to get the message that it is vital to follow the directions that they’re given,” she said.

In a bid to prevent another outbreak and minimise the risk posed by the new mutations, the Isle of Man requests all returnees to isolate alone in a separate address to family at their own cost.

Returned travellers will be tested on day one, day six and day 13 of isolation. If people do not wish to be tested they will be forced to undergo a third week of quarantine.

There has been a total of 434 cases on the Isle of Man since the pandemic began, with 25 deaths.

While it is part of the British isles, it is a self-governing dependency.

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