|5th March 2021
SARK HAS DONE IT AGAIN!
This week saw the Island of Sark enter phase three of the Bailiwick’s Exit from Lockdown. This means that all measures resulting from the second lockdown which commenced on 23rd January 2021 following an increase in cases on the neighbouring Island of Guernsey have been suspended. Lockdown by consent has been as successful in 2021 as it was in 2020, with no recorded cases of COVID-19 to date on the Island.
It is to every Islander’s credit that this incredible feat was achieved with little more than a large dose of good old-fashioned common sense. Sark only had to close its borders, confirm that every person returning to the Island was coronavirus free and then weather it out. Sacrifices have been made with regards to Islander’s civil liberties and freedoms but only to keep the Island safe. It is because of these sacrifices that life on Sark can return to normal much earlier than many other jurisdictions the world over.
The Island of Sark also owes a debt of gratitude to Guernsey and its Public Health Team. With the evidenced-based medical information that came from this Guernsey department led by Dr Nichola Brink, Sark’s Pandemic Emergency Committee (PEC) has been able to follow its support, advice and guidance to keep all Sark residents safe. The recent update from the committee concurred:
‘It is because of this advice and the efforts of Sark residents that we are able to move more quickly than anticipated towards relaxation of the COVID 19 regulations. As from 00.01hrs on the 4th March 2021, Sark will move to stage 3 throughout the Island.’
Phase three on Sark means that there are no longer any restrictions on the size of groups socially indoors or outdoors, no more restrictions on bubble sizes, no requirements for wearing masks and businesses can resume trading as normal. PEC asks that residents continue to use hand sanitiser when entering public premises and to respect one another’s personal space. The requirement for residents returning to Sark to isolate for 14 days will remain in place as it is not intended to open the Island’s borders to outside visitors until Guernsey moves into phase three.
The Island of Sark is currently the only Bailiwick Island that has been able to enter the third stage with no restrictive measures. The Bailiwick’s Civil Contingencies Authority (CCA) confirmed that it intends for Guernsey to enter phase two on Monday 8th March 2021. Alderney currently plans to enter phase three, the same phase as Sark, on Tuesday 9th March 2021, having entered phase two on Tuesday 2nd March 2021.
Guernsey’s criteria for moving into the next phase are:
• No new clusters of infections or individual cases of infection that cannot be controlled by ‘Test, Track and Isolate’;
• Adequate hospital, primary care, community and emergency service capacity;
• Continued local testing;
• Surveillance programme;
• Continued roll-out of vaccine;
• Public adherence;
• Specific consideration on cases since entering recovery stage 2 to assess particular risks.
It is crucial that Guernsey achieves this in order for the Bailiwick bubble to resume allowing inter-Island travel. Last years’ Bailiwick bubble enabled Sark, Alderney and Herm to steal a summer, whilst Guernsey’s hospitality businesses were decimated. The resurrection of the Bailiwick bubble will be a small step to enabling Alderney, Guernsey, Sark and Herms’ hospitality sectors to resume trading through offering staycations which proved extremely effective and popular last year.
The Isle of Sark Shipping Company Ltd (IoSS) has pre-empted the resumption of inter-Island travel, having recently announced that its sailing schedule is now open for bookings from 1st April 2021 for summer 2021 crossings. Though the IoSS website cautiously states that travel is wholly dependent on Sark’s borders being open, which in turn is dependent on Guernsey having entered phase three. Fares have been held at 2020 prices which is great news for any Bailiwick resident.
The States of Guernsey held another media briefing on Wednesday 3rd March 2021 in which Deputy Peter Ferbrache, head of the CCA, confirmed that travel restrictions are continually under review. At present, only essential travel is permited in and out of the Bailiwick. Approved travel permits are required prior to any travel taking place and everyone arriving into the Bailiwick must create a ‘Travel Tracker’ account, entering their travel information before arrival which is unable to be entered more than two calendar days prior. Isolation requirements remain in place for those arriving into the Bailiwick through Guernsey and those travelling on to Alderney and Sark are required to isolate for 14 days on arrival.
For those that are not ordinarily resident in the Bailiwick, this means the only travel permitted is:
• for a compassionate purpose, including fulfilling a legal obligation,
• to become a new resident, or
• as a critical worker.
Following the UK’s announcement of an easing of lockdown restrictions, Condor Ferries has confirmed that it will resume passenger services in mid-May. Though the Bailiwick authorities have been cautious in making any announcements or changes to its current travel policies, Deputy Ferbrache confirmed that:
‘We would expect in the next 10 days, two weeks at the maximum, to be able to tell you where we think we can go in relation to that.’
Guernsey’s Committee for Economic Development has made the decision that the Island will be closed to any possible cruise ships in 2021. Deputy Neil Inder, President of that committee, said:
‘The cruise sector is very important to the Bailiwick of Guernsey and to our tourism industry, and this is not a decision that has been made lightly. But following consultation with Public Health, and due to the extensive operational and logistical requirements and plans necessary to ensure a safe experience for passengers, crew and residents, we have taken the proactive decision to cancel the cruise programme for this year and to focus our efforts on the 2022 cruise programme. We would like to thank the cruise industry for their understanding and support, and we look forward to working with them towards a successful and safe 2022 season.’
With 24 days till the start of Sark’s tourist season, there is plenty to be hopeful for, and, no doubt, this has been down to the dedication of Islanders during these difficult times. 24 days is a feasible length of time for the Bailiwick bubble to be resumed in time for the Easter holidays as anticipated by the IOSS. The Island of Sark can steal another summer.