Like many others, we started 2020 with high hopes and a positive outlook for the year ahead. A new year, a new decade and a chance to make dreams come true. Now we all know that 2020 wasn’t the year we expected. In fact, it was far from that, a year we would never have imagined could be possible, but it was and it changed all of our lives.
With all dashed goals and personal growth aside, however, the big question that everyone always asks us is
“What was lockdown in Guernsey actually like?”
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Lockdown Diaries – Our Experience of Lockdown in Guernsey
We ended 2019 leaving our campervan Roxy in Australia with our friend and heading how to surprise our family for Christmas 2019. We made plans to move over to Guernsey to work for 3 months for Gemma’s nursing registration, an island where she had worked before and we looked forward to going back to work there together this time.
We were set on the 3 months being the maximum time we would spend here as we had to get back to Australia to pick up Roxy.
Well as you can imagine, things didn’t go to plan in the slightest, the world shut down and so did our hopes and dreams for a short time. We had gone from having huge plans for 2020, to not really knowing what was happening or what direction we were going in.
The one thing we were massively grateful for during this time though was work. We know how much this situation has really affected peoples lives and livelihood and we were so grateful that working in essential healthcare services meant that we could carry on working during this time. It was by no means easy, but it was an income and a reason to leave the house during lockdown so we were okay with that.
As the situation began to unfold in the UK, there was fear of it arriving in Guernsey and how it could affect our wee island. On the 9th March, we had our first case of coronavirus here in Guernsey and I guess that’s where it all began.
Those who tested positive were instructed to isolate immediately, however, more and more new cases were found in inbound travellers until eventually the inevitable happened.
On the 25th March, we entered a strict lockdown, with the first case of known community seeding being identified. Strict social distancing measures were introduced as well as the closure of schools and businesses and all non-essential travel was stopped. Anyone travelling into the Bailiwick of Guernsey was required to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of whether they had any symptoms.
24 March to 7 April 2020
As we mentioned before we were lucky to be able to leave the house to go to work every day, others were not so fortunate. Time outdoors was restricted to 2-hours a day, that you could leave your house for exercise purposes with only members of your own household. We were also allowed to meet with 1 member from another household with 2m social distancing.
This level of lockdown lasted for 2 weeks, until the 8th April 2020. This was a tough time for many, everything was so uncertain. All we could do was wash our hands more, try to keep safe and hope that things would improve.
Work-wise, this changed things. Campbell was redeployed to another area and I continued to work where I was under immense stress of tight restrictions and increased anxiety. We had more staff redeployed to us and we had to try as best we could to adapt the social distancing measures in a small space.
The hardest part had to be getting used to wearing a mask. Especially as the weather was getting warmer and it was a completely new concept to what we were used to.
Exit from Lockdown Strategy
Our movement out of lockdown was introduced in phases, each phase requiring specific release triggers to allow us to move forward. Phase 1 was still a full lockdown however home delivery for retail items was allowed to begin. This change didn’t affect us but we were pleased that things were heading in the right direction.
During this exit from lockdown strategy, it was also possible for us to reverse back at any stage if there were any adaptive triggers.
Phase 1 – Deliveries
8 April to 24 April 2020
Phase 1 began on the 8th of April and lasted for a further 2 weeks. The rules were still exactly the same as in phase 1, however, this time retail home delivery was allowed. This was great for us as the weather was starting to get hotter and we didn’t bring any summer clothes with us to Guernsey. To move into the next phase it was important that there was no evidence of community seeding and that the case numbers were reducing or remaining stable. This phase ended on the 24th of April.
At such an early stage, there was no guidance on wearing masks, so this was never something we had to do when out in the community, only when we were in work. Being essential workers, we were lucky that by showing our badges we could enter into some supermarkets without waiting in a queue. So for our weekly shop, this was what we did.
Initially, the shelves were emptying quicker than they could be stocked. Toilet paper and bread mix flying off the shelves. There was a maximum purchase put on these essential items to stop people from buying more than 3 in one shop, which helped a little, but you could see the strain it was having on the key workers that kept the shelves stocked.
Phase 2 – Outdoor Work
25 April – 15 May 2020
Phase 2 was still technically a full lockdown, however, gardening, building and some other trades were allowed to being working under strict guidance. We entered phase 2 on the 25th April 2020 and from the 2nd May (my birthday) more recreational activities were allowed, however, the time limit was still only 2 hours and social distancing was still imperative.
My birthday saw household bubbles being allowed to expand with a reciprocal agreement that extended bubbles would only meet each other.
We continued to keep ourselves to ourselves and Campbell surprised me with a treasure hunt and a beautiful video on my birthday. Despite being in lockdown we managed to make it such a fun day and we filmed it all for YouTube for you guys to see and so that we can continue to look back on it and reminisce.
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Phase 3 – Bubbles
16 May – 29 May 2020
The easing of lockdown started to begin in phase 3 as we moved towards a more normal way of life again within the Bailiwick. We were allowed out for 4 hours of recreation time, which was so nice coming into the warmer weather. Two household bubbles were allowed to join, making 4 household bubbles and more non-essential businesses were able to open up again.
The start of phase 3, which started on 16th May, also saw the reopening of takeaways during certain hours and shops selling sports equipment or children’s clothing. Wedding ceremonies and funerals were allowed a maximum of 10 people, with social distancing measures still in place.
We were heading in the right direction and everyone was starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
Phase 4 – Social Distancing
30 May – 19 June 2020
Different environments were now separated into controlled and uncontrolled environments, based on the ability to trace contacts quickly and effectively following a confirmed case. Controlled environments would include workplaces, places of worship, clubs/groups, recreation and sports teams and a reduced social distance of at least 1 metre may be maintained between people, as long as a record of attendance was kept.
Uncontrolled environments must maintain 2-metre social distancing as no record of attendance was being kept. This included supermarkets and other retail outlets, parks, and playgrounds.
Contact sports and group gatherings must not exceed 30. In the case of a wedding or a funeral, the maximum number of people gathering was 50 people.
Gyms were finally open again with social distancing measures and a booking system in place, and we were very pleased with this one!
Phase 5a – Bailiwick Bubble
20th June 2020
Phase 5a would bring life as normal feel to the Bailiwick, within our Bailiwick bubble. Travel restrictions were still in place with 2-week isolation on return to the island which has played a huge part in keeping the island safe.
This phase started on 20th June 2020, social distancing was now a thing of the past as we were now advised to respect each other’s personal space. Although we were definitely pleased to be able to hug our friends again.
Contact sports were now allowed to start back and indoor children’s play areas were reopened. That feeling of freedom had returned just in time for summer and the positive vibe on the island was amazing.
This phase saw the neighbouring islands to Guernsey re-opening and we took a trip to Herm and Sark during the summer. Things were feeling back to normal.
Phase 5b – International Categories
20th June – 17th August 2020
On 17th August, phase 5b was introduced to allow category A, B and C countries. Travellers entering from a category A country were still required to self isolate for 14 days. However, this change allowed those travelling from a category B country to self-isolate for 7 days on receipt of a negative test. They were then on a passive follow up stage, allowing them to come out of isolation, whilst following strict guidelines.
In July, an airbridge was opened with the Isle of Man. Both islands had similar plans and protocols meaning that travellers could move freely between the Isle of Man and Guernsey. This was enjoyed by many until it was unfortunately suspended in October 2020 following a small spike of cases in Guernsey.
Although this small spike didn’t change anything for us on the island, it did mean the end of the air bridge for a while.
Phase 5c – The Beginning of the End
17th August – 28th October 2020
Phase 5c began on the 28th October which saw the introduction of testing on arrival for travellers and 4 category groups for countries and regions. The category number would depend on the prevalence of cases in other countries, which would depend on the number of days isolation a person would be required to take post return from travel.
We stayed at this phase for a number of months and although self-isolation was still required, this time saw more and more people leave the island to see family and friends in other countries and return back to Guernsey.
Unfortunately in January 2021, numbers in the UK started to rise significantly and the island was placed further restrictions on travel. You would need to obtain an essential travel permit to show that your reason for travel was essential.
Nothing changed for us, we still longed for a trip home to see our families and friends, however, loathed the thought of self-isolation on return and we worried about the possibility of us transmitting the virus during our travels. In our minds, it was the most sensible decision for us to stay in Guernsey and work until things calmed down in other jurisdictions.
The question was though, when was that going to happen?
23rd January 2021
We knew that our freedom on the island was precious. We were incredibly lucky to live life as normal in our own little “Bailiwick bubble”, but we had a sense it was just a matter of time before that bubble would sadly burst, and down we would come, crashing back to reality.
On 23rd January 2021, we woke up a little sleepy having had fun in the pub with our friends the previous night. That morning we had an organised photoshoot with some other local creators on the island. I had just finished doing my hair and I saw two texts pop up on Campbell’s phone. One confirming his holidays meaning we could book flights to Alderney for the following week.. yay!
The other text from our friend asking if we had seen the news..
Campbell instantly searched for the information on Google, nothing. Then, there it was on the States of Guernsey Facebook page; 4 new cases in Guernsey that they were unable to identify the origin of. This wasn’t good news. There was a media briefing being held a few hours later, so we cancelled all future plans and held tight, preparing for the worst..
You know what they say: “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?”. It’s true.
You can feel so grateful for what you have, but that still doesn’t mean when it is suddenly gone you don’t feel a bit lost.
The island was slammed back into the tightest restrictions it had experienced since the first wave back in March, with no non-essential activities, no meeting of different bubbles, and no outdoor activities for more than 2-hours. Lockdown 2.0 had hit like a train and was likely to be here for a while.
We 100% know that this was the right thing to do for the safety of the island if left even a few hours longer the results would have been disastrous for the liberties that we have held so dearly over the previous seven months. The promptness of our leaders of the island has allowed us to live life normally and we are so grateful for that.
We knew this was the right choice, but it still hurt a little.
So this has got us back to square one again currently, we still plan to go to Alderney one day and when the time is right we will book that trip, however, right now we will stay home and stay safe (and go to work of course).
Well, currently this is where we are at, back in lockdown for the foreseeable and wondering when will this ever end! We will be updating this post regularly with our experience living in Guernsey during this time.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay sensible, and enjoy these beautiful videos of Guernsey from above.
Love Gemma and Campbell x
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