Isle of Man government lowers its coronavirus alert level meaning fast craft Manannan can resume sailings between Liverpool and the Isle of Man. Tony McDonough reports
Fast craft sailings between Liverpool and the Isle of Man will resume this week – but only for residents of the island.
In March the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company halted sailings, which can be up to twice a day during the peak summer months, as the island looked to protect its residents from the spread of coronavirus.
Since March there have been 336 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the Isle of Man’s population of around 84,000 people, with 312 recovering and 24 deaths. There has been no new confirmed cases on the island for more than 50 days.
From Monday, July 20, the Manx government is moving its alert level from 5 to 4 which means residents will be allowed to visit the UK and beyond for holidays or to visit friends and relatives before self-isolating for 14 days on their return.
Although the Steam Packet Company rescheduled its timetable in late March, it has continued to operate daily services between Douglas and Heysham, including an overnight lifeline freight service.
The change in government policy – considered the next stage of a phased border reopening – will see the company run two daily sailings between Douglas and Heysham on Ben-my-Chree on most dates from Friday, July 24, as well as providing a daily fast craft service to Liverpool on Manannan from Fridays to Mondays (again beginning on July 24).
Steam Packet chief executive, Mark Woodward, said: ‘We were anticipating this news for some time so have been developing rigorous processes to ensure measures are in place to protect passengers and crew.
“This schedule is available for Manx residents who can self-isolate on their return for 14 days. It will see Ben-my-Chree provide a twice-daily service for both freight and passengers to Heysham and a link to Belfast. Manannan will also provide a passenger service to Liverpool.
“Throughout the pandemic, our team has worked within strict parameters and the safety, wellbeing and protection of our passengers and staff remains our number one priority with easy-to-follow guidance in place for those travelling on our vessels.
“Passenger bookings are currently being capped on every sailing to around 40% of capacity to help maintain social distancing onboard.”
From July 20, Isle of Man residents must have a Manx Entry Permit to ensure they can return and need to complete an online Government Landing Form prior to travelling. The Isle of Man borders remain closed to non-residents unless they have been granted an exemption certificate.
Isle of Man Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, said there had been “careful consideration” before making the change. He added: “We cannot stay isolated forever… we have taken another careful step towards normality.”