WITH potential visitors asked not to come to the Isle of Wight during half term — and lockdown rules in place to stop them — what was the reality?

The February half-term started with a plea from the council and tourism chiefs for people to stay away and not travel to the Isle of Wight.

Cllr Dave Stewart asked people to stay away, but what was to stop them? Government restrictions, police spot-checking at the ferry terminals, and information being shared between the council and the ferry operators all helped keep track of the situation.

Additionally, accommodation providers were not allowed to accept leisure and tourism travellers, and this was monitored by the council.


Cllr Stewart said: "We were helped by lockdown still being in place, and that control definitely had an effect, which is good.

"Of course there are still people coming over, for essential travel reasons, but far fewer than normal.

"People were saying the ferries were busy, but there are fewer ferries and they are not at capacity. We have continued to have engagement with the ferry companies, the police and our enforcement team."

He said he had directly asked the ferry companies if they were seeing lots of people travelling here that shouldn't be, and the answer was no.

Red Funnel reported that the first half-term weekend was not as busy as the previous weekend had been, and the ferries are still running at well under the reduced current capacity.

Wightlink, while having reduced capacity, said they were carrying fewer than a third of that number. The Fast Cats are still not running.

People are allowed to travel for several reasons, including work reasons, medical reasons, selling houses, compassionate visits, and for childcare bubbles. Children can also travel between parents in different households, which can be more frequent over the holiday periods. More information on exemptions is found here.

Cllr Stewart said restrictions on travel was enforced by police, who reported generally good compliance on the Island.

The police told the County Press: “We are assisting with an increased presence at international ports. In Hampshire, these include Portsmouth and Farnborough.

“With regard to travel to the Isle of Wight, we continue to carry out patrols in our communities as necessary and ports such as Portsmouth Harbour, Ryde, and Fishbourne are included within these patrols as required.

"Officers will continue to undertake the tried and tested 3E’s approach of Engage, Explain, and Encourage, to reinforce why people should stay at home.

"We will continue to carry out enforcement as necessary where someone does not have a reasonable excuse to leave their home and where blatant breaches of the current regulations are identified."

Second home owners

However, the police did say, via their Facebook page this morning (Sunday), they had been dealing with "Covid breaches reported in respect to second home owners." The County Press has requested further information about that.

Cllr Stewart said there had been fewer "second home" Covid breaches reported to the council during this lockdown, compared to previous ones.

He said there had been reports of people breaking the rules by being in accommodation when they shouldn't be, but on investigation, they had genuine reasons for being there, and those reporting them had misread the situation.

He also said he wasn't aware of any businesses caught breaking the rules, except at the Ryde gym which had remained open to the public.

When will visitors be welcome again?

A lot of hospitality places are closed, but Cllr Stewart said the "time will come" when the Island should open back up for business.

"We do not want people to come to the Island at the moment but the time will come when the infection rate comes down and people have been vaccinated, when the Island will need to take the opportunity to be open for business.

"If you go too far you will lose out to other resorts, when this year could be the year Isle of Wight tourism businesses get going again.

"Personally, I'm not sure we will be ready at Easter but we can now see that at the end of May we could be more confident, knowing the most vulnerable will have been vaccinated and businesses will be ready to be Covid compliant.

"The Isle of Wight needs to get the mindset right, get ready to get back into the tourism economy.

"The Island isn't an insular place. Everyone seems to be doing the right thing and there's a real opportunity for us to see a way out of the lockdown nightmare."

He said not only will Islanders be ready to emerge from lockdown to enjoy the beaches, pubs and restaurants, but people in the UK will not be looking to go abroad, but looking for 'staycation' venues.

"We can make this the year we all get a nice chance to enjoy what we've got on our doorstep," he said.

Report a suspected Covid breach at keeptheislandsafe.org/reporting-covid-19-breaches-or-concerns/