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Chief Minister's speech on care homes and vaccines

07 December 2020

​Today, following a weekend where we saw increases in the positive Covid results, we will be giving an update on our testing and tracing, the delivery and roll out of the vaccine, and new measures for Care Homes that will help us get the vaccine delivered as quickly as possible to their residents and staff.

Last week, the Health Minister and I outlined the critical crossing point that our Island finds itself in, and a series of new measures aimed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Jersey.
Over the last twenty-four hours we have undertaken more than two thousand PCR tests of which only thirty-one have come back as positive. 

We are monitoring the compliance and tracing data daily to make sure these measures are working the way we anticipated and waiting for the incubation period for Covid to run its course, so we can see if they are working on reducing our positivity rate.

Our test positivity rate has now risen to around 1.2%. Whilst this is a dramatic increase in what we saw in previous weeks, I must stress that this still means that, on average, for every 100 people who are tested, fewer than two return positive. 

Just to be clear, we will not be introducing an Island-wide lockdown when over 98% of our results are negative, almost fifteen thousand children are still able to attend face to face schooling and over one hundred thousand Islanders do not need to be in isolation. 

We are in control of our response, it is proportionate to the threat of the virus, and if the rules and measures are adhered to strictly, will allow us to implement our vaccination programme smoothly.

I would now like to handover to Dr Muscat, who is going to explain the data behind some of the trends we have seen last week, in more detail.

This background is important in understanding the situation of Covid-19 in Jersey and how this is going to affect our plan to vaccinate Islanders. 

Ten days ago, we outlined our plans for delivering the COVID vaccine.
Today, I can confirm that the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine are on track to be delivered to Care Home residents from next Monday, the 14th December, with a second dose to be administered in early January.

Care Home staff will receive their first dose from the 21st of December with a second dose by the middle of January.

Any stock not used in these first two rollouts will be made available for frontline health staff and those at the highest risk at the end of December.

This is good news and means that many of our Island’s most high-risk residents will have immunity from COVID-19 by the end of January 2021.
But all this comes with a compromise. We cannot vaccinate people who are sick.  This means that a single cluster in a care home could prevent an entire homes’ residents from being vaccinated and given that immunity.

To prevent this situation, we have taken the difficult decision to implement a program of shielding at our Island’s Care Homes which will begin tomorrow morning.

This measure will pause visits to Care Homes until it is safe to resume, with the only exemption being for those on an end-of-life pathway or for a Christmas visit, with further details of the latter to be confirmed in the coming days.

I know that this restriction will be extremely disappointing and will cause frustrations and deep sadness amongst many Islanders.
But it is absolutely essential to protect Care Home residents and ensure that those most vulnerable are able to be vaccinated as soon as possible. 

This will be a difficult period but the next six weeks are critical to ensure we can vaccinate as many vulnerable Islanders as possible.

As soon as we can lift this restriction we will do so. But our first priority in managing this virus is, and must remain, protecting those most high-risk in our community and we have to look ahead to delivering the vaccine to those who need it most.

I will now hand over to the Health Minister to give an update on our testing program and how it is supporting our intelligence on the virus’ spread.

I understand that many Islanders would find it easier if we had adopted a more unambiguous policy of eradicating the virus in Jersey by either locking down Islanders for a circuit break or by locking down our borders from returning Islanders.
We are not planning either of these policies. 

Evidence from other jurisdictions demonstrates that short nation-wide lockdowns don’t prevent the long-term spread of COVID-19 and can often have the opposite effect. 

By the time you finish your two-week lockdown and people rush to see family and friends, the Covid incubation period hasn’t yet finished within households that had previous positive cases and the virus quickly spreads again. 

Lockdowns also create additional serious pressures including increases in cases of  domestic violence, alcohol abuse and self-harm. 

They exacerbate seasonal depression and undermine mental health, and all this is to say nothing of the serious economic consequences on people’s jobs, careers and savings - all of which affect their long-term health.

Later this week we will be having a further press conference and will be making further announcements regarding the measures which will keep us safe over the festive period.
Those measures are still being finalised, according to the latest data but I know Islanders are already aware that this will be a very different Christmas to those that we are used to.
We will all need to adjust if we are to stay safe this December. And I am confident that the measures which we will be announcing WILL keep us safe while still allowing us to enjoy this special time of year with close family and friends.

Thank you for your time and I would now like to invite questions from the media.

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