26 March 2020
I firstly have to refer to the very sad news that we lost our first Islander to complications involving Coronavirus last night.
The patient was receiving palliative care after a long illness, when they contracted Covid-19 and sadly passed away.
On behalf of the Government, and the whole Island, I offer my most sincere condolences.
The fact that they were on an end-of-life pathway and had underlying conditions does not make their death any less sad.
This is the first death to affect our Island, but it will not be the only death that we will mourn together.
So I implore everybody, please, take heed of the Government’s health advice and keep your distance from one another.
Keeping two metres apart and practicing good hygiene are the most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus, and save lives.
The risks that Dr Muscat has so clearly reminded us about are real.
The actions that we must take to reduce those risks are real too and so simple to follow.
You must all follow them and I appeal to our young people to play their part in reducing the risk to their older family members.
You have the power to slow the spread of coronavirus. Please use that power.
Islanders will know already that there is an increased time lag between taking a coronavirus COVID-19 sample and Jersey receiving a result.
I want to provide assurances that samples continue to be processed by the laboratory we use in London.
We will be able to do our own tests once we receive the equipment we have ordered, but that is still some weeks away, although we continue to pursue every avenue available to us.
Very late last night and this morning we received new results from the lab in London which show that the number of positive tests is on the rise.
This is expected and is how a virus spreads.
The majority of our cases are still being dealt with in the community and those who have tested positive are, generally, doing well.
We have now conducted 671 tests, of which 32 are positive, 472 are negative and 167 remain outstanding.
In the past six days since we received the last test results, the number of positive cases has grown from 16 to 32.
That number is still relatively low.
But it is clear from these results that the virus has now begun to spread and is no longer confined to infection among people returning from abroad.
That is why the Health Minister announced a short time ago that from midnight tonight, all Islanders with severe medical conditions, which put them at high risk, must self-isolate to shield them from the spread of Coronavirus.
This includes Islanders with certain cancers, severe respiratory conditions such as severe asthma, those on medications that significantly affect their immune system, and pregnant women with underlying heart disease.
We are introducing this measure to protect our most vulnerable groups of Islanders from the virus.
The medical advice is that they are more likely to suffer from more severe symptoms, be hospitalised and perhaps require intensive care.
They are also at the greatest risk of dying.
To help people in this situation, we will mobilise support that allows this group to stay in their homes and we will keep them informed about when it is likely to be safe enough to ease these restrictions.
As the Minister said, this will be a matter of weeks, not days.
Those aged 65 and over, and people with less severe medical conditions, are also vulnerable.
So we now also recommend that these groups stay at home as much as possible.
In the first instance they should only go out for essential supplies such as food, fuel and medicines, or to get exercise of up to two hours a day.
Detailed guidance will be issued in the next few days to cover all groups, and also to prepare for the time when it will be necessary, in the near future, for these measures to apply to everyone.
I also want to repeat what the Health Minister said last night in response to rumours and misinformation circulating about our response to Coronavirus.
We have always been clear and transparent, since this pandemic began, that we would publish the number of people who have been tested for COVID-19, the number of people who have contracted the virus and any other relevant information.
These rumours by a minority of conspiracy theorists make people fearful and suspicious.
They are unfounded, unnecessary and damaging to the trust that we all need in the integrity and professionalism of our health colleagues.
I am pleased and grateful that so many people are not engaging with this, and instead are showing in practical ways the best side of Jersey’s community spirit.
So many people are stepping up to help their family, friends and neighbours – whether checking on their welfare, shopping for them or providing them with hot meals and a kind word.
And so many volunteers have offered their time to help strangers, because they see that we are all in this together and some people need help, whether it is practical or a personal touch to help keep their spirits up.
So I want to thank all those who are volunteering for showing the qualities of selflessness that will help our Island to endure the weeks and months ahead and come out united as a community.
I want to sincerely thank all of our staff who are going above and beyond the call of duty in this difficult time.
I am pleased that today we can announce the biggest economic support package in Jersey’s history; one that makes substantial use of our Island’s strategic reserves.
I will now hand over to Senator Ian Gorst, Minister for External Relations and Assistant Treasury Minister, who will talk through the new measures that we are introducing to support employees, businesses and the self-employed.