Unrestricted travel between Guernsey and the Isle of Man has been confirmed, starting from next month.
In a joint announcement, Guernsey and the Isle of Man's Chief Ministers have revealed that an 'air bridge' will be set up, which will allow people to travel between the islands without any need to self-isolate upon return or arrival.
The starting date is yet to be confirmed, but it is anticipated that commercial flights will begin next month and run for an initial six-week period, with Aurigny due to announce details of flight schedules and ticket sales next week.
“I’m delighted we’re able to confirm that an air bridge with the Isle of Man will go ahead and I’m certain our community will welcome it enormously," said Deputy Gavin St Pier.
"As we continue to maintain controls for arrivals from other destinations where community seeding of the virus which causes covid-19 raises concerns, this offers a chance to get away this summer without the need to self-isolate. Having been many times over the years, I know that the Isle of Man is a great destination, with beautiful scenery, welcoming people and much like our Bailiwick, a proud and distinct cultural identity.
"I hope to be able to make the most of the air bridge and pay a visit to the Isle of Man myself this summer. And I know our community will be ready to give Manx visitors a very warm welcome to our islands."
Pictured: Guernsey's corona virus panel gave an update on the air bridge plans earlier this week.
Guernsey's Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink said this week that from a public health perspective, the Isle of Man ticked all the boxes - with its testing rate and contact tracing seemingly as successful as Guernsey's.
"I think the criteria [for an air bridge] is we have to be absolutely confident with the viral activity in the jurisdiction you are linking with," she said.
"If a jurisdiction doesn’t test, they are not going to have any positives. You have to be happy with their testing rate, with their laboratory services, with their contact tracing and so on. I am absolutely confident that the Isle of Man has very similar procedures in place to what we do and a similar testing strategy, so I am absolutely confident in the data that the Isle of Man are publishing and that is a really positive first step."
The Isle of Man has no active cases of Covid-19 and there hasn't been a positive test result in the island for 35 consecutive days.
In total the Isle of Man has seen 336 positive cases with 24 fatalities linked to the virus.
The population of the Isle of Man is around 84,000 and the island itself is 221 square miles - compared to Guernsey's 24 square miles with a population of around 63,000.
Pictured: People will be able to visit the Isle of Man this summer without self-isolating on arrival and return.
Howard Quayle MHK, Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, said there were many Manx holidaymakers keen to explore the islands of the Bailiwick.
“Announcing our first air bridge, and unrestricted travel to the Islands of Guernsey, is a major milestone and reflects how well both communities have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic," he said. "Because we’ve pulled together as an island, and because the people of Guernsey have done the same, we both are now weeks without any new cases of the virus and are able to open up travel between our jurisdictions with confidence.
"Guernsey and the other Islands within its Bailiwick, Alderney, Sark and Herm are a great destination for Manx holidaymakers to get away to this summer."
When will the link start?
There have been no firm details as of yet, but the air bridge between Guernsey and the Isle of Man could launch on 22 July, according to a businessman with travel firms in both islands.
Brian Kelly is the Chairman of the Online Regional Travel Group which includes Wayfarers World Travel Ltd and Mann Link Travel.
Mr Kelly told Manx Radio that dates have been set in principle for the creation of an 'air corridor' between the two Crown Dependencies, which have both beaten other jurisdictions to eliminate active cases of Covid-19.
Pictured top: Aurigny will be used to offer direct flights between Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
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