Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

People shop in the high street as non-essential retail shops are open on May 19, 2020 in Douglas, Isle of Man.

Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images

Imagine a place where face masks aren’t mandatory, pubs and restaurants are open and people don’t have to stand two metres apart. Welcome to the Isle of Man.

The small island in the Irish Sea has lifted all COVID-19 restrictions after going 20 days without an unexplained case of the disease. Since Feb. 1, all pubs, restaurants, schools, gyms and shops have reopened and face coverings are optional.

0

6

0

200

KM

KM

BRITAIN

ISLE OF

MAN

IRELAND

ISLE OF MAN

Douglas

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN;

OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS

0

200

KM

BRITAIN

ISLE OF

MAN

IRELAND

ISLE OF MAN

Douglas

0

6

KM

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN;

OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS

0

200

KM

BRITAIN

ISLE OF

MAN

IRELAND

ISLE OF MAN

Douglas

0

6

KM

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS

“You can stand at the bar. You can chat, shake hands with your friend and even give him a hug,” said Guy Armstrong-Rossiter, who runs the Rovers Return pub in Douglas, the island’s capital. “We’ve got our own little paradise here at the moment.” The pub has been doing a brisk business all week, and some bars opened at the stroke of midnight last Sunday to take advantage of the newfound freedom.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s nice to be back,” said Howard Quayle, the Isle of Man’s Chief Minister. “I just had my haircut today, which was a joy. The only downside, I suppose, is when you go back to work there’s a bit more traffic on the road.”

The island’s government – the Isle of Man is a British crown dependency and runs most of its own affairs – has been vigilant about cracking down on COVID-19 outbreaks. After an initial three-month lockdown that started last March, health officials eased most physical-distancing measures through the summer and fall.

That changed dramatically after Christmas, when 40 infections surfaced on the island. Most of the cases were traced to people returning from visiting relatives in Britain but four couldn’t be explained, which suggested the virus was spreading locally. The government ordered a 25-day lockdown in early January and closed pubs, restaurants, schools and all non-essential retail. “We decided that instead of waiting for the cases to rack up, we were better going in fast and hard,” Mr. Quayle said.

The quick action paid off. Today the island, which has 85,000 residents, has just eight people in quarantine with COVID-19, while the hospital has no cases. Border controls have also been tightened and non-residents are banned from visiting without special permission. Residents can travel abroad but they must follow a mandatory 21-day quarantine on return. They can be released after 14 days if they’ve tested negative three times.

“We were able to flush it out of the system, kick it off the island and go back to our normal lives,” said Mr. Quayle. “It’s been a fantastic achievement.”

But the island hasn’t been spared the ravages of the pandemic. There have been 434 cases of the virus in total so far and 25 people have died. The economy, especially tourism, has also been hit.

Since 1907, the island has played host to a series of motorcycle races called the Isle of Man TT, or Tourist Trophy, which now attracts more than 50,000 visitors annually. The event was cancelled last year because of the pandemic and it won’t be held in 2021. “That has had a phenomenal impact,” said Rebecca George, who heads the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce. The tourism “sector is very reliant on the TT races. Not being able to bring visitors over has had a phenomenally detrimental effect to our economy.”

Story continues below advertisement

The government has stepped in with some support. Mr. Quayle said roughly £100-million ($175-million), has been spent to help businesses; the overall cost of pandemic to the treasury will be around £200-million in total, or roughly 20 per cent of the government’s annual budget. However, he said many sectors of the economy have held up well during the outbreak.

The Isle of Man is well-known as a tax haven and it has no corporate tax and no tax on capital gains or inheritance. That has helped lure a range of financial services to the island, especially insurance firms, as well as e-gambling companies such as PokerStars. “Some of the sectors were totally untouched,” Mr. Quayle said. He added that the unemployment rate has fallen back below 2 per cent.

There’s no guarantee the island won’t go into another lockdown and officials have kept up a relentless testing effort and vaccination drive. The Isle of Man is part of Britain’s vaccination program and, so far, nearly all residents older than 80 have received their first dose. Mr. Quayle said the government hopes to have everyone over the age of 50 vaccinated by May and all adults inoculated by August.

“It would be naive of us to think there might not be a chance that [the virus] will come back,” he said. “But we’re going full steam ahead with our vaccination program and you’re learning all the time.”

For now, pub owners such as Mr. Armstrong-Rossiter are celebrating a return to something close to normalcy. “We’re a lot more fortunate than some of our counterparts around the world. We realize that and we’re really grateful,” he said as he prepared the bar for another busy night. “It’s very uncertain times and we’ve just got to try and make the most of it whilst we can. Fingers crossed, hopefully we’ll be able to get the world back to normal soon.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies