Are islands safer places to be during COVID-19? Researchers hope to find out


Researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland are wondering if islands are safer places to be during COVID-19. 

To find out, about five weeks ago, researchers created a survey for island governments to answer, to pin down how they’ve been managing during the global pandemic.

Francesco Sindico, the co-director of the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, says the survey has already gathered responses from islands in 36 countries around the world, including feedback from P.E.I. and Big Tancook Island, N.S.

“It’s really giving us a rich, rich picture of how islands are dealing with the pandemic,” Sindico said. 

“These are stories, these are practices that policy-makers and stakeholders may well be interested in.” 

Some of the questions in the survey include, how is the island community being protected from COVID-19, and how are goods and services being taken care of? 

New question to be added to survey

“But also going beyond that, also thinking, for example, the mental well-being of people on the island — were there any measures in place?” 

Now that restrictions are being relaxed on some islands, a new question will be added to the survey to investigate how the measures are being eased from island to island.

In most cases islands have appeared to be … safer places.— Francesco Sindico, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance

“That is very much what … the users of the survey, of the web page are more interested in now as well,” Sindico said. 

“Not just how you deal with COVID but how you leave the lockdown in a safe way in order to avoid a second wave.”

He noted that so far, only a few of the islands which provided feedback to the survey have experienced severe consequences caused by the pandemic. 

“So unfortunately, there is an island in Estonia called Saaremaa, which apparently has been suffering almost more than the mainland but in most cases islands have appeared to be … safer places,” he said. 

Contributing factors to island-resilience

Sindico said there are some island-specific factors that could be contributing to what appears to be their general resilience, like a strong sense of community. 

“Going forward we need to do a lot of contact-tracing, this close-knit community can be a positive for islands and can make them, if you want to use that word, a little bit safer than on the mainland.” 

While the survey indicates islands are safer places to be during the pandemic, Sindico said governments should take this time to re-evaluate their policies for future crises. 

For instance, he pointed out that for many islands, food security is a concern in tandem with the logistics of transporting goods. And that’s in addition to an “over-reliance” on tourism. 

“What I would humbly suggest is during this period, to really look very critically as to what is making a specific island more [challenged] at this time and going ahead, trying to better understand that specific area of island policy more,” he said. 

“We’re talking about a COVID-shock, but there will be other shocks.”  

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

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