The Chief Minister Alfred Cannan MHK last night announced measures intended to limit the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the Isle of Man.
The Chief Minister said:
“There is understandably significant concern about what the Omicron variant might mean in terms of how likely the virus is to spread from person to person and how effective existing vaccines are in offering protection.
“With so many questions unanswered it is important we take steps to protect our community and buy time whilst scientists learn more in the coming weeks. These discussions are happening the world over. Our response must, however, be proportionate. The Council of Ministers feels the measures agreed yesterday will help limit the spread of the virus whilst allowing people to carry on with their daily routines.”
The Chief Minister continued:
“I know news of the variant will be concerning and frustrating, especially as we enter the festive season. We want life to continue as normally as possible but I would ask everyone in our community to play their part in being extra vigilant in the weeks ahead. Be aware of symptoms, undertake regular testing, wear a face covering when in public places, and practise good hand and respiratory hygiene. These simple steps could make a real difference and buy us that much needed time.
“The measures announced today will be reviewed as we learn more about the Omicron variant in the days and weeks ahead.
“In the meantime I cannot emphasise enough how important vaccines are. Vaccination against COVID-19 remains our best defence against the virus. I would encourage everyone to take up their booster when offered to ensure they have the fullest level of protection against the virus. We will continue to consider the latest advice on vaccines and boosters as it emerges from JCVI.”
With no cases of the new variant having yet been detected on the Island, new border measures are being brought in from 4am on Tuesday 30 November.
Anyone fully vaccinated travelling to the Isle of Man who has been outside of the Common Travel Area (UK, Ireland, Jersey and Guernsey) in the 10 days before arriving on the Island will be required to self-isolate on arrival. They will be required to have a PCR test after 48 hours and must remain in self-isolation until they have received a negative result. Anyone who is not fully vaccinated will still be required to follow the 7 day isolation period.
Anyone travelling to the Isle of Man from within the Common Travel Area, regardless of their vaccination status, will have to commit to taking a lateral flow test. This should be done as soon as possible after arrival and within 12 hours at the latest. This commitment will form part of the landing form and there will be a new online facility to submit test results. Although self-isolation will not be mandatory, travellers are asked to do this wherever possible and are also asked not to enter public places such as shops, bars and restaurants until they have done a lateral flow test and received a negative result.
Anyone entering the UK from a country on the red list will not be able to travel on to the Isle of Man. This remains unchanged from before and they will have to quarantine in a hotel and undertake two COVID-19 tests.
New measures are also being brought in on public transport, with face coverings to be mandatory from 4am on Tuesday 30 November. This includes Bus Vannin, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessels and commercial aircraft. Face coverings will also be mandatory from this date for all visitors and staff in all health and social care settings. Early adoption is also encouraged with immediate effect.
The public will be expected to wear face coverings where possible in other public settings such as schools, retail outlets and public buildings. This is in line with the COVID-19 Winter Framework.
Where the Omicron variant is suspected, all household close contacts will be required to immediately self-isolate, as a precautionary measure, whilst the specific variant is confirmed.
The introduction of the new measures set out today has been timed to align with measures being introduced in England. Prior to the new measures coming in to force, the public are encouraged to act responsibly, wearing face coverings on public transport and in public settings, taking regular lateral flow tests and isolating after travel where possible.
Accelerating the vaccination programme
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is expected to issue revised guidance on the COVID-19 vaccination programme, which the Isle of Man is likely to follow. This could see a shorter time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine, a shorter gap between the second dose and a booster, and expansion of the booster programme to younger age groups. Further details on this will be released in the coming days.
Know before you go this Christmas
The public are encouraged to continue to test for COVID-19 at least twice a week using free lateral flow test kits and to ‘know before you go’ to gatherings, such as events and Christmas parties, by taking a lateral flow test beforehand.