Business365 editor, Simon Richardson – like so many other people on the Island – is working from home. He’s been keeping a daily blog about the experience and reflecting on the strange times we find ourselves in as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic.
It was a dramatic change in the weather last night. After an incredibly hot, sunny day and evening the dark clouds rolled over and in a short space of time all hell let loose with thunder, lightning and torrential rain. It was surely no coincidence that it ran parallel with Liverpool winning the Premier League. Never mind – there’s always next season.
It’s incredible how quickly we revert to our old ways of doing things. It’s hard to imagine that just a couple of weeks ago we were still operating under strict lockdown protocols imposed by government using emergency powers. Now the speed limit has gone, we can all socialise as we did pre-Covid19 and pubs and restaurants are open and doing good business.
There is though, still one large fly in the ointment; our borders remain firmly closed and the Island’s drawbridge shows no meaningful sign of coming down any time soon. It’s perfectly understandable, and had the government not imposed the ban on movement when it did the possible consequences are too grave to contemplate.
But people are becoming restless. It’s not just those who have had to cancel overseas holidays – most of them accept it’s just one of those things. It’s the many others who have close family members living and working in the UK – some of whom have reached, and often passed, major landmarks in their lives during the coronavirus pandemic; new jobs, new babies, engagement, marriage etc. All events they would normally celebrate with close family.
Keeping the Island closed to the outside world also has economic consequences. It’s hard to convey the message we are open for international business when the Island is encircled by an invisible ring of barbed wire.
Just when and how we re-connect with the outside world is a tricky conundrum for the Chief Minister and his team. There are many people who would happily keep the borders closed indefinitely to avoid any possible re-importation of the virus. Whilst their sentiments are wholly understandable, they are not realistic. As an Island we must trade, and if coronavirus is going to be around indefinitely, then we have to find a way of living with it and balancing vigilance with reality.
Yesterday Mr Quayle announced a five-stage strategy for opening the Island’s borders. We are currently at stage five, and the return to completely free movement will only be achieved when we reach stage one – so still some way to go. He said the situation would be re-assessed weekly, and hinted that level 4 could be introduced as early as the end of next week.
He also announced that an air corridor plan had been agreed with Guernsey and its airline Aurigny, by which residents of the two coronavirus free Islands could travel freely between the jurisdictions. It’s a tiny chink of light, but won’t have that many people jumping for joy – especially if the fares are as eye-watering as some of the other Channel Islands services.
What seems to be overlooked, or brushed under the carpet, by politicians is that we have a serious problem at Ronaldsway Airport. British Airways service to London City is reportedly ending in September and the demise of Flybe has severed links with key destinations. Can we be sure EasyJet won’t drop the Island from its schedules if our borders remain closed for a protracted period? We face the real prospect of having an airport with virtually no flights coming in or out. That might be music to the ears of isolationists, but from an economic perspective it would be catastrophic.
The government has done a fantastic job protecting us from Covid19 and deserves our thanks and respect. How to open our borders in a safe and controlled manner though is the final piece of the jigsaw. The moment may not be right, but there will come a time when Government must stop being the over-protective parent, gradually loosen the reins and let us back into the big, bad world.