23 December 2020
Five days ago, we asked Islanders to avoid gathering indoors, we asked you to work from home unless critical to the running of your business and we closed cafés and other food premises except for takeaway services.
Nineteen days ago we implemented the Hospitality Cirtuit Breaker.
Even now, it is still too early to know how quickly these measures will reduce the transmission of COVID-19. However, we have seen very high levels of compliance and I am grateful for the continued cooperation of Islanders.
As many of you will be aware, a particularly virulent strain of COVID-19 has appeared in South East England, which increases the chance of transmission by almost 70%.
We are already taking steps to establish whether that strain is present in our community.
It is likely that this new strain is already present in our Island, but whether it is or not, we must continue acting proactively to limit the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in Jersey.
We have made significant investments into our track and trace programme over the past weeks and months, and our dedicated officers continue to work apace to trace direct contacts as quickly as possible.
In the last two weeks additional team members have been recruited and more will join the contact tracing team over the Christmas period and we are introducing greater automation into the process to ensure officers time is used most efficiently.
Active case numbers still remain higher than we would like, at a time when the rollout of the vaccine continues.
To date, we have vaccinated over 2,000 people but as we have said repeatedly before, we CANNOT vaccinate people who are sick with COVID-19.
Today, we have also received another 3000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
We need to bring the number of active cases down – as quickly as we can.
And we will do so by extending the circuit breaker measures we have already put in place, and by introducing new measures.
I’ll ask the Health and Social Services Minister, who is issuing the relevant legislation to implement these restrictions, to set out the new measures in detail.
Before I hand over, I really do want to emphasise that this is a DIFFERENT Christmas, a more cautious Christmas, but not a cancelled Christmas.
To be safe, we want Islanders to mix their households, as little as possible, over the Christmas and New Year period.
We are allowing some flexibility over Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but only where it is essential for the well-being of family and friends.
The fewer people you get together with, the better.
And if you are questioning whether you should follow this guidance, please remember: COVID may not affect you, but it may affect someone dear to you. It may affect your job – the more cases rise, the longer restriction last , and the more severe they become – that affects lives, and also businesses and jobs, and ALL of our freedoms are restricted for longer.
So please do follow the instructions that we give.
As you can see from the information that Dr Muscat has clearly laid out, this extended circuit break IS necessary.
Necessary to ensure that our vaccination programme can proceed on target.
Necessary to ensure that our high-risk Islanders are kept safe.
Necessary to protect jobs and livelihoods in the medium term.
And necessary to give us the best opportunity for the Island to return to normality in early 2021.
I know that these measures and those announced on Friday have impacted on Islander’s Christmas celebrations in a fundamental way.
We have had representations from many groups, including our Portuguese and Polish communities, who will not be able to celebrate in their customary way on Christmas Eve. I am very sorry for this, and we would have liked to have accommodated this request. But STAC are clear in their advice that we must limit the number of days that gatherings are permitted – and we must follow that advice.
So, I would urge those communities to celebrate within their own homes – and only with the people who live there - this year, in the knowledge that this sacrifice will mean we can all celebrate in our chosen way when next Christmas arrives.
I do not want Islanders to be concerned that we will be locking down as we did in March. The Council of Ministers and medical professionals all recognise the physical and mental impacts that this can have.
What we cannot do – for the time being – is to allow multiple households to meet indoors.
But I would encourage Islanders to continue to meet safely, outdoors, but only in groups of a maximum of 10, and while always respecting physical distancing of 2 metres.
We will review all of the restrictive measures that we have put in place, at the beginning of January.
If, at that stage, STAC advise that it is safe and proportionate to do so, we can begin to reopen, and allow Islanders to begin to meet again.
With your help, and the ongoing success of our vaccination program, I truly believe that the end of this challenging period is in sight.
Thank you, we’ll now take questions from the media.