With yesterday’s announcement that the borders are due to be open by the end of June, a large number of people have reacted with sheer joy but we must remember that many people also have very valid reasons for why they want the gov to show more caution.
Gef broke the news on Tuesday night that the gov would be seeking Tynwald support for a new exit strategy which brought forward a full reopening from the September target in its first document to the end of June by way of a staged process of unraveling. Since then, we have this morning had confirmation of two new cases which Chief Minister Howard Quayle said were ‘an important reminder that although we were able to lift legal restrictions on Monday, we should not think of our situation as back to normal’.
Unsurprisingly, many of our readers reacted positively to the news, with people dreaming of seeing their loved ones for the first time in over a year. Others were dreaming of going to see family and friends in the UK and Ireland, or just simply getting off the island and going on a holiday in one of the adjacent isles or going shopping in Liverpool. But equally many of the island’s residents are scared and they need reassuring that everything that can be done, will be done to keep people safe as we move to living with Covid.
Wealth Travel Tax
One of the people who emailed us, Sara, said: ‘I was weeping reading the banner headline ‘unrestricted travel from end of June’ at the thought of seeing my family in Scotland after two years and letting my parents meet their new grandson.’
But she added that after a proper read of the proposals, there will be some financial restrictions around people being able to go off island, at least while the rules requiring people to isolate and test when returning to the island are in place. Sara said that the charge of £50 per person per test will make it ‘infeasible’ for some families to be able to afford travel and likened it to a ‘wealth travel tax’.
Sara added: ‘That isn’t unrestricted travel to us and I assume many. I hope the gov can hear this point of view.’
Understandably, with the island’s vaccine rollout being slightly delayed for a number of reasons, other people have fears over whether adults and indeed children will have enough protection from Covid.
One woman who emailed us, Caroline, said: ‘I don’t understand why, after being so cautious with the virus we look like we plan to open up completely so quickly. What worries us relates to the fact that though the vaccine does offer some increased protection, this is increased further with two doses. Why would we look to open up before the majority of people have had their second dose and put all our good work in jeopardy.
‘Just look at what has happened in Chile. We’d like the government to explain why they see this early opening without the second dose as ok and safe. We want to travel across to see family this summer restriction permitting but are not keen to go until we have had both doses and feel uncomfortable with people coming into the island without their two doses. We would feel more comfortable if the stages were staggered over a longer time which would still allow people to see family and for a tourist season over the summer.’
Responding on our Facebook page, John said: ‘It’s ill conceived. Opening borders before the under 30’s are vaccinated is putting life’s at risk, we should open borders when everyone who can be vaccinated has been. I agree we need to move to mitigation but lockdowns should no longer be a feature of future plans.
‘This is a virus that we will be living with from now on. We cannot eradicate it, we are never going to be immune, we have to learn to rely on a vaccination programme and annual boosters where applicable. I want our borders to open when the time is right for our island, I miss my family dearly also. But the situation in the UK with virus hotspots remains unclear. It’s natural we want to get off the rock. It’s been a year, but let’s remember why we’ve had to give up our off island freedom and remember those who are no longer with us due to the virus. ‘
Other residents are also looking at the differing variants that have begun to appear in the UK, specifically the South African and Indian variants.
Responding to our reporter’s post on the facebook page Isle of Man News and Politics, Tina said: ‘Lots of ifs in this scenario. There are so many questions as to how the UK will be handling their situation/s especially in light of the emerging new variants. All this will impact on us. If we are overtaken by a new variant getting in with no protection from our current vaccines resulting in more deaths, this gov will have those deaths on their hands.’
She was not alone in having concerns over the impact that new variants arriving on the island could have, many other people commented that they want to see more info on what the new variants could mean for the UK and the island.
While I am not surprised by the euphoric reaction from some, equally I’m not surprised some people do not want the borders to open any time soon, or at least not as quickly as this framework should be. Personally I want to get off the island and go see people I haven’t seen for a long time. But the concerns raised by these people and others responding to the news do need to be addressed by the gov. People need to feel reassured that the most vulnerable are as safe as they can be and there needs to be greater communication around the status of vaccines for children and the risks associated with opening up the borders with so many younger people having had only one dose of the vaccine and others having not had any at all.