The Chief Minister of Guernsey has said life resembles ‘pre Covid’ times as the island prepares to stake a claim for hosting the biggest Burns Night in the world.

Deputy Peter Ferbrache hailed ‘severe’ travel restrictions as being key to avoiding the type of prolonged lockdowns imposed in the UK.

He spoke as the Guernsey Scottish Association prepared to host 350 people in person at its supper, which will be held without social distancing 100 miles off the English coast.

Due to take place in an 800-capacity hall on January 30, it’s thought to be the world’s largest celebration this year, with another event in New Zealand set to attract 100 people.

Hundreds of people are also expected to descend on a music festival this weekend, with free admission to live concerts and dancing at the St James cultural centre.  

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A ‘get boozy folk night’ is planned for Saturday at the venue in the Channel Island’s capital, St Peter Port.

Metro.co.uk previously reported on a rave held at a live music venue, The Fermain Tavern, which attracted 250 revellers.

Mr Ferbrache said: ‘The Burns Night supper is an endorsement for the approach we have taken and as we’ve got a strong Scottish community it will be celebrated as usual.

‘We’ve also had Channel Islands Pride where four or five bus loads attended, we have had the Earth Fair, which is a music concert, and you can go to restaurants and sit next to people without wearing masks and we’ve got no social distancing.

‘Apart from the severe travel restrictions, it’s like living pre-Covid.’

In June, Guernsey was the first place in the British Isles to be declared Covid-free, which the Government credited to ‘strong and decisive leadership’ and an ‘extraordinary community spirit’.

Lockdown restrictions were lifted with life resuming much as normal.

The island has since recorded 13 deaths from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic – with eight known active cases and none in hospital, according to official figures.

At present, only essential travel is allowed into the islands of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, which are English dependencies known collectively as the Bailiwick.

While Guernsey locked down at around the same time as England, it took action sooner in relation to its first confirmed case on March 9, a traveller who had returned from Tenerife.

Mr Ferbrache also highlighted the travel precautions as being key to keeping Covid infections at bay among the 67,000 population.

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He said: ‘The events are able to go ahead because we shut down early for the first lockdown, it lasted about three months.

‘For about 100 days we had no cases at all.

‘During the second wave we tightened our borders and the only way you can get in and out of the island is for essential travel, such as essential business or really strong compassionate reasons.

‘Other than that you’re not allowed in and you’re not allowed out.’

The island near the French coast, known for its nature, hiking and coastal scenery, has taken a hit on tourism.

Mr Ferbrache, who is chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority, said: ‘Tourism was non-existent last year, we had a travel bubble with the Isle of Man for a period of time because they also had no cases.

‘You could go there and vice versa.

‘But that apart tourism was a disaster and none of us know when we’ll be able to ease the travel restrictions, it certainly won’t be for the first half of the year.’

Social life, such as this weekend’s Upload festival, is helping to readdress the deficit.

Mr Ferbrache said: ‘Our internal economy, at the moment, is good because people can go to restaurants, they can buy houses and they get the builders round.

‘We are one of those lucky places where people can move around freely.’

Travellers to Guernsey must self-isolate for 21 days on arrival, although this can be cut short if a negative Covid test is returned on day one and 13.

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Rules are strictly enforced with fines of up to £10,000 for people who flout the precautions against Covid-19.

Stuart Hardie, president of the Guernsey Scottish Association, said: ‘We are in touch with a New Zealand Scottish society that is having a Burns supper for about a hundred people and we are very conscious that other people aren’t as lucky as we are.

‘There will be three courses, poetry, songs, pipers and a lot of dancing.

‘The format will be a bit different because there’s a lot of people who aren’t terribly interested in Scotland, they’re more interested in pouring whisky over their haggis and having a dance.’

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