03 April 2020
Charlie Parker, Government of Jersey Chief Executive
It is eight weeks since health officials carried out the first Coronavirus test in Jersey, on an Islander returning from abroad.
Since that time, it has been long days and short nights as we have been working at speed to deal with the developing crisis.
Some people have asked why I have not been seen in the media during this time?
What my colleagues and I want to talk to you about today is how we have been preparing behind the scenes to deal with Coronavirus since it was first reported by China in January.
How we are ensuring that our front-line colleagues are keeping our services running.
How we are providing information, advice and support to Ministers in their decision making.
How, as a public service, we are adapting our own ways of working to keep public servants safe.
And how we are already starting to think about and prepare for the recovery.
Julian Blazeby – the Director General for Justice and Home Affairs – plays a central role in our emergency planning. He chairs the Strategic Coordination Group.
In a little while, he will talk through the various information and decision-making structures that have been set up, and how the Government is co-ordinating the cross-Island effort to tackle Coronavirus.
Robin Smith – the Island’s Chief of Police – will then talk through how the States of Jersey Police are ensuring that the Island stays safe throughout this crisis, and that the measures announced over recent weeks are complied with and, where necessary, enforced.
But first, I want to talk about how the public service is responding to the challenge of this pandemic.
It is responding magnificently and working really hard in exceptional circumstances.
I want to thank everyone in the public service for your hard work during the last few weeks and the long hours so many of you are doing, often over evenings and weekends, to keep our Island running and keep us safe.
And this isn’t just public servants in the Government, but also our colleagues right across the public sector, in water and electricity, ports, post and telecoms too and, of course, the wider health sector.
The focus, has rightly been on our health service on the Coronavirus front line – the doctors and nurses, paramedics and pharmacists, lab technicians, porters and cleaners.
They’re putting their own health at risk to care for everyone else.
I can’t thank them enough for all they are doing for our Island.
But the public sector front line goes beyond health.
It is teachers, teaching assistants and nursery workers who are caring for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, so that their parents can go to work.
It is police officers, firefighters and prison officers, keeping us safe and secure.
Social workers and mental health workers, caring for the vulnerable.
Manual workers keeping our infrastructure running.
Colleagues in Jersey Water and Jersey Electricity, keeping the taps and the lights on.
In Jersey Telecom – keeping us connected when we need that, now more than ever.
Port workers, keeping our food supplies flowing.
And postal workers, who are not just continuing to deliver our letters and parcels, but are also checking on the welfare of the elderly, the isolated and the vulnerable.
Working with our Parishes and volunteers to create a much-needed network of support across the Island.
Thank you all.
Every day, you go out to work, so that others can stay safe at home.
But the Government’s effort to tackle Coronavirus goes much further and deeper than the front line.
What has been going on behind the scenes is not always so visible, but it is equally important in managing this national emergency.
That is where my senior colleagues and I have been focusing our own efforts over the last few weeks.
Tackling this pandemic has required action on multiple fronts.
Our public health colleagues provided the expert medical advice to Ministers that has guided their decisions on the escalation of guidance and restrictions in recent weeks.
Our policy and legal colleagues drafted the emergency powers regulations that enabled Ministers to issue instructions to Islanders and to businesses that will keep us safe.
They also prepared the regulations that will prevent tenants from being evicted during the crisis.
And they put together the comprehensive guidelines that underpin the Stay Home instruction – so that everyone knows what they can and can’t do, which businesses can stay open, which must close and who is a critical worker.
Our economy colleagues worked with retailers and freight companies to ensure we continue to receive supplies into our supermarkets, and that we have extra capacity if we need it.
Our colleagues in Treasury, Revenue Jersey, Financial Services and Economic Development worked round the clock to put together the schemes that will provide hundreds of millions of pounds of Government financial support to businesses and employees.
Colleagues in Customer and Local Services and Treasury worked equally hard to ensure that people in need are supported, that those who have lost their jobs have money to put food on the table, and that the vulnerable are protected.
We pulled together colleagues from across Government to work with the voluntary and community sector, parishes, charities and volunteers, to identify people who need help and to ensure they get it with the Connect Me project.
Colleagues in Modernisation and Digital ensured that the Government’s IT system has the capacity to enable hundreds of employees to work from home.
Colleagues in Children, Young People, Education and Skills are supporting children’s schooling at home and providing nursery and school care for essential workers and vulnerable children.
They also established the Children and Families Hub, to ensure that families and children are not at risk.
And colleagues in Communications have ensured that everyone is kept informed, through the biggest and most important public information campaign that we have ever undertaken in this Island.
Across the public service, our employees are working to keep Islanders safe, secure and informed.
None of this happens by accident. This is what I and Senior colleagues have been co-ordinating.
But planning and implementing the measures that Ministers approved and announced is only part of how we are handling this national emergency.
We are also starting to plan for the recovery.
We’re starting to discuss what a new Government Plan for 2021-24 would look like – essentially making it part of an economic recovery plan for Jersey.
Because we will need to kick start the economy after what will be the deepest drop in economic activity since the financial crash 12 years ago.
We’re also looking at all the possible options for Ministers to consider to fund the recovery and replenish the reserves over coming years.
So we’re looking at how the public service should tighten its belt, like other sectors are having to, in order to support the essential services necessary to fight Coronavirus.
As a result we are urgently reviewing current Government expenditure in the light of the crisis, to offer Ministers options on what we should continue to deliver, what we should defer and what we should stop.
And sitting behind all of this activity is the comprehensive emergency planning and command structure, which Julian will take you though in just a moment.
I want to end by again praising our hard working public servants and all those involved in this emergency response.
I’m immensely proud and grateful to the many public servants and community partners for all that you are doing every day, for all of us.
Thank you to every single one of you.
And if I may take the opportunity to repeat to everyone else what Ministers have been saying all week: they come to work for you; so stay home for them.
I’ll now hand over to Julian, who will talk through how we are co-ordinating this emergency across the whole of the public service, and beyond.
Julian Blazeby, Director General for Justice and Home Affairs
Thank you, Charlie, and good morning.
I am now going to take you behind the scenes and talk you through our emergency planning response to COVID-19, as Chair of the Island’s Strategic Coordination Group.
This senior officer forum is responsible for coordinating the cross-Island operational response.
Our role as officials is to prepare and plan, gather and interpret information and then use what we have gathered to advise the Emergencies Council on the issues, actions and decisions that they need to consider.
Our dual responsibility is to ensure that Jersey is able to respond to the immediate emergency itself and to the impacts and consequences of that emergency on the Island.
In responding to this pandemic, we must ensure that Islanders are protected and cared for by our health services, but we also have to ensure that the Island continues to function.
It means ensuring that our emergency services, our infrastructure, our utilities and our supply chain all have the capacity and resilience to continue to operate.
We prepare for these situations with emergency exercises, where we bring representatives together from across the Government and emergency services, as well as utility companies, ports, businesses organisations and the voluntary and community sector.
We have held exercises in recent months for Brexit Day 1 No Deal, for an Island-wide cyber-attack and, indeed, for a possible pandemic.
These exercises are extremely useful in bringing all parties together, in checking and updating our emergency response plans and deepening our knowledge about the potential emergency.
The emergency pandemic exercise, which took place last November, was particularly useful because of the briefings that Dr Ivan Muscat and officials from Public Health England gave about how pandemics spread and what the absolutely critical measures are to slow the spread of a virus.
And it is exactly those measures that Dr Muscat has consistently advised the emergency planning teams and Ministers are needed – good hygiene, social distancing, self-isolation for people with symptoms, shielding vulnerable groups and, when absolutely necessary, community-wide restrictions on people’s freedom of movement.
So when the Coronavirus first came to light, the dozens of officials and partners who had attended that exercise already had a good grounding in how we should respond as an Island.
When COVID-19 emerged as a threat in January, key officials in Health and Community Services started a daily Scientific, Technical and Advisory Committee – or STAC – to share information, and formulate plans and actions for Jersey’s health care response.
STAC oversees all the medical aspects – virus modelling, hygiene control, resources, equipment, protection measures for staff and patients, operations and outpatient appointments.
STAC reports into the Tactical Coordinating Group or TCG, for short, which also began meeting in January.
TCG is chaired by the Chief Fire Officer and includes senior officers from the emergency services, operations directors and officials from across Government departments, communications, infrastructure and supply partners.
Its role is the on-the-ground management of the multi-agency operational response to the emergency.
It ensures that priorities are set, resources are allocated and that delivery is organised.
It ensures that operational commanders have the means, direction and co-ordination to do what’s needed.
TCG in turn reports into the Strategic Coordinating Group – or SCG – which I mentioned at the start and which I chair.
SCG includes most Government Directors General, the chiefs of the emergency services, prison, customs and immigration, and senior representatives of critical infrastructure and supply chain partners and key advisers, where appropriate.
We take overall responsibility for the multi-agency management of the emergency and establish the policy and strategic frameworks for the whole Island.
SCG and TCG both meet at least twice a week and will convene at short notice when necessary.
But we also have daily calls each morning to check in on actions and status, because of the fast-moving pace of the emergency and the need to respond quickly to it.
Both groups are supported by a Strategic Coordination Centre, including a Multi-Agency Information Cell.
This function is overseen by the Chief Fire Officer and staffed by Police Officers, Customs and Immigration Officers, Fire Officers and administrative support.
The resourcing of this cell has been increased over the last four weeks as we have scaled up our activities.
Sitting above the officer-led groups is the Emergencies Council, which is chaired by the Chief Minister and is the most senior Ministerial crisis planning and management committee.
As well as the Chief Minister, the Emergencies Council includes the Ministers for Home Affairs, Health, Infrastructure, Economic Development and External Relations, Treasury and Education, along with a representative of the Comité Des Connétables.
The Lieutenant Governor, Bailiff and Attorney General also attend.
It provides the executive and political leadership during a crisis and is politically accountable for the planning and preparation for emergencies.
Within the Council sits a smaller group of Ministers, known as the Competent Authority.
They are the key decision makers for policy, regulation and any necessary legislation – at all times remaining accountable to the States Assembly.
As you can see, there is a network of expert groups, each with their own defined function, responsibilities and accountabilities, playing their part in guiding and implementing the Island’s response to the Coronavirus emergency.
The significant decisions affecting the Island are taken by Ministers, but the advice that guides them is expert advice from the specialists in their fields.
And, always, we are all guided by the medical advice.
As Charlie said, we’re working around the clock to manage the impacts of this pandemic, keep Islanders safe and keep you informed with the facts about what’s happening and what you need to do, regularly and truthfully.
And I want to reassure you that you still have access to the emergency services for non-Coronavirus emergencies.
But please only call 999 for a real emergency.
For all COVID-19 enquiries, call the helpline on 445566.
Please play your part in keeping yourself, your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours safe: stay at home, comply with the restrictions, follow the medical guidelines and help save lives.
I shall now hand over to Robin Smith, our Chief of Police.
Robin Smith, Chief of Police
Julian, Charlie - Thank you.
The core purpose of any police service is to maintain the safety of the community they serve.
A national emergency, such as we face today, doesn’t change that.
In fact, more than ever, the States of Jersey Police – and our Honorary Police colleagues
– have a duty and responsibility to ensure that no member of the public is placing
themselves, or others at risk.
States of Jersey Police, like you, is adjusting to this, ‘new normality.’ But be in no doubt, we have planned for this and we’re ready.
In doing so, it is so important that we maintain your faith and trust, adhering to the principles of ‘policing by consent’ that we have followed for almost 200 years.
And because we have faith and trust that you will play your part as responsible citizens, by complying with the restrictions.
You may have seen reference to the policing approach that we have adopted, known as the ‘Four Es’.
Firstly, we will ENGAGE members of the public to understand their circumstances and their reasons for being away from home.
Where we feel it is necessary, we will EXPLAIN why the, ‘Stay Home Instruction’ is so important.
After all, this is about staying home to save lives.
We will then ENCOURAGE people to comply.
Finally, and only if absolutely necessary, we WILL ENFORCE, using whatever power is appropriate in that particular situation.
Of course, we would prefer never to get to the enforcement stage, after all we are all in this together.
But that relies upon all Islanders understanding the instruction and acting on the restrictions, as so many already are. Not just today or tomorrow but over the coming weeks.
This applies to the States of Jersey Police too.
As I mentioned, we have established detailed plans to ensure that our frontline services can continue to operate effectively, even if some of our officers are absent because of sickness or self-isolation.
You would expect nothing less from us, or from our partner emergency services – Fire and Rescue and Ambulance.
We are all working together to protect Islanders and save lives. Thank you for all the support you have given us, and indeed all my emergency service colleagues. A big ‘thank you’ too to those officers and staff we have a privilege to lead – they have responded magnificently.
So, please help us to do our jobs in these difficult times by calling for our help only when you really need us.
Please also follow the simple instructions from the Government about frequent hand washing, keeping at least two metres away from other people, and staying at home unless you are an essential worker, or under the very limited circumstances that the Government has allowed.
These restrictions and the public health guidance are all designed to protect you and your families.
But, be in no doubt, States of Jersey Police will be there for you throughout this crisis.
We are, after all, your ‘citizen’s in uniform’, doing our sworn duty to protect lives on your behalf, so please support us by staying home, staying safe and caring for each other.