Change in face covering rules as threat from Omicron eases


Additional measures put in place last month to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will end tomorrow. 

It follows a significant reduction in the number of coronavirus cases on the Island, allowing a return to level one of the Government’s COVID-19 Winter Framework. The changes, which come into effect at 00:01 tomorrow (Saturday 22 January), mean an end to the legal requirement to wear face coverings on public transport and in health and social care settings. 

The wearing of face coverings is no longer ‘expected’ but is still strongly recommended when mixing with others, especially where other mitigations such as distancing or ventilation are more difficult. 

Manx Care’s policy requires anyone visiting its health and social care facilities – such as Noble’s Hospital – to wear a medical-grade face mask, which is provided on arrival. 

The wearing of face coverings is strongly recommended within educational settings and when using school transport, but this is a personal choice for all staff, students and visitors. 

Chief Minister Alfred Cannan MHK said: “I want to thank everyone on our Island for the way they have responded to the threat of the Omicron variant over the past few weeks.  Overwhelmingly, people rolled up their sleeves to get their boosters; tested themselves regularly and reported the results; and acted responsibly, particularly with wearing face coverings.  All of this has helped our community to weather the rapid spread of this new variant and keep our Island functioning. 

“All indicators point to our Omicron wave having peaked in early January with case numbers reducing significantly over recent days.  Whilst COVID-19 has not gone away, the reduction in case numbers means the Council of Ministers has been able to review the situation here on-Island.  We said we would only keep additional measures in place as long as they were necessary and in light of the reduced threat of high case numbers, the Council of Ministers feels the time is right to adjust our response accordingly. 

“I would encourage everyone to still think carefully and act appropriately.  The message of hands, face, space, and fresh air is as important as ever. Whilst face coverings will return to being a matter of personal choice outside of health and social care settings, they are still strongly recommended where large numbers of people mix or where ventilation is poor or distancing difficult. Whilst it would seem the worst has passed, we must remain vigilant, but can do so with cautious optimism.” 

The public should continue to self-test regularly using freely-available lateral-flow kits.  Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 should test themselves.  Anyone without symptoms is encouraged to test themselves twice a week and before going to events or visiting vulnerable people.

  Lateral flow test results should be submitted online.  There are no changes to isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19.  Anyone who tests positive is still required to isolate for 10 days and is encouraged to test themselves daily. 

Anyone who records two negative lateral flow test results 24 hours apart can be released early from self-isolation.  Since this system was introduced on 22 December 2021, over 4,000 people have been able to leave self-isolation early, with the average period being between five and six days. 

There is one change to border rules, with the age limit for children arriving on the Island exempt from isolation and testing increased from 12 years to 12 years and three months.  This is to allow those turning 12 a three month window to become fully vaccinated. 

The Chief Minister continued: “As well as the changes announced today, the Council of Ministers is exploring a longer term view on how we live in a world with COVID. We will continue to review the situation regularly and I hope we will be in a position to adjust our approach further in areas such as testing, isolation and borders in the coming weeks.”
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