The Isle of Wight is closed to visitors during the February half-term which starts on Monday (February 15). That is the message from the Isle of Wight Council, as current lockdown restrictions prevent people from leaving their homes except essential reasons, such as exercise, essential shopping and work that cannot be done from home. Taking a short break, a holiday or visiting relatives is currently illegal.
As Covid-19 infection and hospitalisation rates continue to fall across the country, the Prime Minister is expected to announce changes to lockdown rules on February 22 to come into effect from March 8.
Council leader, Dave Stewart, said: “Tackling the coronavirus has meant major changes to the lives of every single one of us across the Island and I know that has been tough. The virus remains a very serious threat and we cannot be complacent in any way. Let’s not put all the good work we have achieved over the past few weeks at risk by forgetting the rules during half-term.
“The Island will be here for us all when this is over. It isn’t going anywhere, and neither should you.”
The message was reinforced by Simon Bryant, the council’s director of public health, who said: “Stay home, exercise locally and avoid all unnecessary travel. The pandemic is far from over. By making these big sacrifices, we can give the NHS critical time and space to do what it does best, and to also deliver the vaccination programme.”
The Isle of Wight Council’s messaging was more consistent than the Government’s on holiday arrangements. On Wednesday (Feb 10), Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps was clear; he said: “People shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally,” with the Prime Minister saying, a few hours later, that it was a ‘choice for individuals,’ later adding it was ‘just too early’ for people to be certain what they can do in the summer. Confusion turned into farce when Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, then revealed during a meeting of Tory MPs that he had already booked a summer break to Cornwall.
Will Myers of Visit Isle of Wight said that clarity was needed. He said: “Right here, right now is not the time to travel — by staying at home, we can all play our part in fighting coronavirus and bring an end to this most difficult of times. However, the government need to be clear in their messaging; that is all that we ask. We are looking forward to February 22 when the Prime Minister will tell us about the plans for the country, about the restrictions hopefully being relaxed and setting out a road-map. All I would say is be clear, don’t fudge it, so that businesses can plan accordingly.
“I have spoken with my contact at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport – the department responsible for tourism – and have asked them to ensure this message gets through; equally I have asked our MP to reinforce this to the government.”