Guernsey becomes first place in the British Isles to end Covid restrictions

17 February 2022, 15:20 | Updated: 17 February 2022, 15:32

The high street in St Peter Port, Guernsey’s capital
The high street in St Peter Port, Guernsey’s capital. Picture: LBC

By Jonny Freeman

Guernsey has become the first place in the British Isles to scrap all coronavirus rules.

From today isolation after a positive test is no longer compulsory, but health officials are still strongly advising people to stay at home if they catch the virus.

The Channel Island first went into lockdown in March 2020, around the same time the UK and many other places also imposed strict restrictions.

It was then one of the first place to emerge out of lockdown in May 2020. There was no return to the most severe restrictions there until January 2021, when the emergence of the Delta variant led to a number of cases in the island and its neighbours Alderney and Sark.

Fast forward to now and the island has been steadily reopening and relaxing rules.

Many shops and businesses in the heart of the island were closed and empty during the island’s two lockdowns
Many shops and businesses in the heart of the island were closed and empty during the island’s two lockdowns. Picture: LBC

Although cruise ships weren’t able to visit last summer or the summer before, arrivals from the UK and other countries were allowed.

That was based on a system of lateral flow testing on arrival, although those who’d been in countries on the UK’s red list had to isolate and take PCR tests before being allowed back into society.

The island’s Civil Contingencies Authority has been leading the response to coronavirus. Deputy Peter Ferbrache acts as chair of the organisation as part of his role as Guernsey’s Chief Minister.

He told LBC now is the right time to move back to an almost normal, providing people remain cautious:

“Over the period of time, vaccines have been available and they are very effective.

“People have learnt to live with COVID and at some point you have to get on with life.

There are no longer any rules in place at the border for visitors wishing to visit Guernsey
There are no longer any rules in place at the border for visitors wishing to visit Guernsey. Picture: LBC

“At one stage we did think we’d be able to eliminate coronavirus all together, but that’s going to be impossible.

“COVID’s going to be with us today, tomorrow and next year.”

Deputy Ferbrache has also confirmed ministers in the UK gave them the go ahead to bring in today’s full relaxation of the rules:

“Their response was clear. They said that if you feel that’s right for you then that’s what you must do.

“We didn’t make the decision to be the first. We felt we reached the stage in our response to coronavirus that we could move forward in this way.”

The change in rules has been welcomed by many people living and working on the island, including the local football club.

Nic Legg is one of Guernsey FC’s directors. He told LBC the financial impact restrictions has had on the club is huge and they’re only just recovering:

“When the pandemic first began, we knew that pulling out of our English league for the season wouldn’t be putting just a pause on the football club - it could mean the end of it.

“We couldn’t ask players and staff to come here and isolate for 14 days just play a game, so that proved difficult.

“We were worried about sponsorship deals but fortunately all our sponsors were loyal and we’ve come out the other side.

“We are competing at the moment and the restrictions have eased enough to allow us to do that.

“Clubs we’re playing at home are now are asking to bring over fans, so that’s good for the club and the island as a whole.

For those who looked after loved ones who were shielding in Guernsey during the pandemic, being able to move on with life comes with both positive and negatives.

Maisie Foote had to take over primary care of her grandmother when the first lockdown began, as her existing carers weren’t able to come into their home.

Maisie says the first few months were particularly tough when the island and the world were facing challenging and unprecedented times.

“I had to make sure I was being so careful. I wasn’t going out much and had to get as much food delivered as possible, although that was very difficult as the island doesn’t have many supermarkets or delivery slots.

“At first I felt quite grateful for the tight border controls but now I’m so glad to be able to head elsewhere and visit friends and family.

“I’m really looking forward to going back to what we could call ‘normal’ but I’m also quite scared too. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

One of the island’s key sectors is tourism and travel. There are no longer any rules in place at the border, with arrivals able to enter the island without the requirement to test.

The States of Guernsey owned airline Aurigny is slowly rebuilding back to normal timetables and full planes after two years of running flights at a significant loss.

Ferries between the Channel Islands, the UK and France are also key to bringing in visitors.

The full relaxing of restrictions has been welcomed by Condor Ferries, which sails between Poole, Portsmouth, Guernsey, Jersey and St Malo in France.

A spokesperson for the company said: “The announcement that border and quarantine controls in Guernsey are coming to an end tomorrow is very welcome news.

“This decision should give people even greater confidence that the islands are a safe and easy destination to travel to. We expect the islands to be a popular destination again this year.

“The feedback from UK visitors last year was very positive and many were pleasantly surprised at the ‘no passport requirement’, the relaxed atmosphere, the quality restaurants, the beautiful beaches and found it a perfect way to get away, without going too far from home.

“We also believe many customers will still want reassurance whilst travelling and therefore the ability to bring your own car and benefit from the wide-open spaces onboard a ferry will be very appealing.

“We look forward to a positive summer ahead.”

Guernsey’s change in coronavirus rules comes as parts of the UK also look to make similar changes.

Boris Johnson has pledged to relax all restrictions in England a month early, Northern Ireland’s government has announced it is lifting rules, but Wales and Scotland still have some COVID laws in place for now.