Schools across the Isle of Man will be forced to shut down in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus – particularly among the island’s young people.
The move, which will see all schools and childcare facilities close from Friday, comes just days after a circuit break lockdown came into force on the island following a rise in coronavirus cases after a ferry crew member tested positive.
The island had come out of lockdown on February 1, with schools and businesses reopening after no reports of unexplained community cases of coronavirus for 17 consecutive days.
But, on Tuesday, Chief Minister Howard Quayle announced a new lockdown of 21 days as a result of a ‘transmission in our community that we cannot see and that we do not understand’.
He confirmed that the Isle of Man had seen ‘a strong level of transmission between its young people’ and ‘every opportunity’ needed to be taken to interrupt this.
All schools and childcare facilities on the Isle of Man will be forced to shut down in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus . (Stock image)
Mr Quayle said: ‘As we know, the Kent variant of COVID-19 is particularly virulent and we are seeing it spreading rapidly amongst our community.
‘The virus spreads when people mix and so we need to do all we can to minimise that mixing.
‘We are currently seeing a strong level of transmission between our young people and we need to take every opportunity we have to interrupt this.
‘Whilst much of the opportunity for transmission has been minimised through the circuit break, there are still a number of settings where children are moving around outside of the home.
‘In the interests of children and broader society, we need to prevent children from mixing.
‘The closure of schools and childcare facilities on Friday will create a firebreak, and the message is simple, if you have children, they must not mix with children from other households and should stay at home on Friday.
‘This decision has not been taken lightly and is on the advice of Public Health and other professionals managing our response to this pandemic.
‘I appreciate that it will present a challenge to our children and for a number of people who provide essential and indeed critical services for our Island but at the moment we feel this action is in the best interests of our young people and our community.’
Chief Minister Howard Quayle announced a new lockdown of 21 days as a result of ‘transmission in our community that we cannot see and that we do not understand’
The island currently has 58 cases of coronavirus, three of which have no immediate link to identified clusters of the virus.
On February 18, Mr Quayle announced there were cases of Covid-19 on the Isle of Man which were not among people who had travelled there and entered self isolation.
All leisure and hospitality venues closed but takeaway and delivery services will be permitted.
All lifestyle business such as hairdressers also closed and non-essential retail businesses were also forced to shut although they are allowed to operate click and collect and delivery services.
They were linked back to a member of staff working for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, which runs ferries to and from Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin and Heysham, in Lancashire.
At the time, the company said the crew member, who was not in a passenger-facing role, had a test while off-duty and was placed in immediate isolation, with contact tracing underway.
Under the new measures, which came into force just after midnight on Wednesday, schools and businesses will close and residents are urged to stay at home.
Mr Quayle said the island’s vaccination programme was on track to deliver first doses to all over 50s and clinically vulnerable adults during April.
The Chief Minister Mr Quayle made the official announcement by a formal address given on Tuesday and said the measures will be reviewed constantly and kept in place only as long as necessary.
Mr Qualye said: ‘From Wednesday we will be reactivating the financial support measures including MERA, Salary Support and the Business Support Scheme. The Treasury Minister will provide a statement in the House of Keys later today.
‘I know this will be far from easy this time for so many.
‘I know there is a great cost in locking down our Island and your lives. But we believe the alternative is now even more costly.
‘I know we have asked you so much in the past and are I know asking you so much again.
Residents on the Isle of Man gathered in their hundreds in November for annual light switch on
‘And I am truly sorry that this is happening.
‘But our collective judgement throughout yesterday and last night, as more information became clearer, was that this, is what we need to do.
‘I have always said that we will do what is right for the Island. And this is what we are doing. The right thing.’
The lockdown was lifted on January 31 – 19 days after the last coronavirus case was detected before this latest outbreak.
Schools and businesses reopened and the island’s 50 bars and pubs welcomed revellers over Christmas when they were allowed to welcome back customers.
Social distancing measures and mask-wearing rules were also scrapped, but strict border controls – banning all but residents and key workers from entering – remained in place.
The island was the only place in the British Isles to be able to celebrate a normal Christmas
The island, which is a crown dependency and has its own government, was plunged into a similar 25-day circuit breaker lockdown after a Covid outbreak at the turn of the new year.
But pubs, bars and restaurants were finally allowed to reopen at the end of January after officials announced the outbreak had been brought under control.
A vaccine roll-out on the island has begun with Health Minister David Ashford saying everyone on the island will be offered a coronavirus jab by the end of September.
Those aged 50 and over would receive the jabs by the end of May.
With its strict border controls, the Isle of Man remained restriction free for almost seven months last year.
It closed its borders in March, before allowing residents and essential workers back into the country from July.
With the latest lockdown, Mr Quayle says he hopes the virus will be stamped out for good, adding: ‘This is tough. I know it will be hard on families and on our businesses.
‘It will be hard on our health and wellbeing and it will be hard on our children.
‘I do believe though that if we get this right one more time – if we stamp out once and for all the transmission that has been sitting under the surface for some time now – and in parallel if we protect our vaccination programme – this could hopefully be the last time.
‘If all is well, as we progress over the next 21 days, I sincerely hope that we will not have to tighten up further. It has worked before. We know what to do.’