30 November 2020
Over the last month, we have seen a significant increase in the number of active Coronavirus cases in Jersey.
This includes large clusters of cases where we cannot identify the original source and - where cases in those clusters are linked to more than one event - where the guidelines were obviously not followed in the way they should have been.
When we set out our COVID Winter Strategy at the start of November, we clearly explained that the presence of complex multiple clusters would be an important early warning and something that we should do our best to prevent.
That it would be a time where we would need to escalate Island-wide measures to prevent a significant outbreak in our community.
That time is NOW.
Today, we have passed a total of 1,000 positive cases since the first case was recorded on 10 March. There are currently 247 active cases in our community and over 2,000 people are isolating as a result of being a direct contact of an infected individual.
Almost 75% of current active cases are symptomatic. And we have been advised that compliance, by a small but socially active part of our community, is casual at best.
We must draw a line.
I know that many of you are angry that we have got to this stage and scared for what may come now.
I know that many of you are desperate to see your children who are returning from university, or to see those who have been isolating, but are concerned about the risks to your own, or your families, health.
I know many of you are shielding and are worried about the combined risks posed by COVID, by flu and the other pressures of winter.
We need to work together to navigate these risks and prevent the situation from worsening. And it will require all of us to do our part.
Our track and trace system is working, and the Contact Tracing team are identifying and putting the right people in isolation, to protect our wider community.
But we are unfortunately not identifying enough people before their symptoms begin and they call the helpline seeking healthcare.
As these cases mix in the community, we need to do more to slow their spread and limit the number of interactions they have, to allow the track and trace system to catch up, to isolate the right people, and to allow the rest of us to continue with normal life.
To help the system, we must all limit our socialising outside of work. We must limit the mixing of household groups, we must wear masks and download and use the Covid Alert App.
We should all be following the physical distancing guidelines. You should not be within 1 metre of anyone outside your home - and if possible, you should already be trying for more.
Despite the warnings given over the past months, large events are still being organised and attended by multiple family groups, friends and work colleagues.
We are not just talking about one party at one venue – we are talking about a surge in cases across multiple clusters, across all sectors and ages of society.
We must hold those who fail to follow the guidance properly to account, but we must not enter a blame game without evidence, in particular across social media. This does not benefit our community or help prevent the spread of the virus.
Our children have shown us how resilient they are in carrying on their learning despite their year groups isolating, and our young people have taken our recent warnings incredibly seriously – engaging on new social media platforms and taking part in surveys and engagements to support us in keeping cases down.
Now it's time for us adults to take responsibility and to make the stricter changes to our daily lives. The cases are not spreading in schools, they are arriving in schools from infection that has spread in hospitality, in private functions, from fitness groups and too many people hosting one another for parties.
In the coming weeks, our environment will become even more susceptible to the virus being easily transmitted. The weather is becoming colder, and we are likely to see heightened Christmas social activity and we will see an increase in in-bound travel from returning students.
We cannot allow these new natural and behavioural factors to place our community at further risk.
Now is the time to protect our vulnerable. We need to identify cases outside of our current control systems. And we need to stop the spread.
As a result, today we are announcing a series of measures that should dramatically reduce the ability of the virus to spread in our Island. I know some people are calling for us to lockdown, now.
I do not want to put Islanders under the mental trauma of lockdown, or to unnecessarily separate the high-risk from their families over Christmas.
The measures we are mandating today will protect our most high-risk and prevent a second lockdown – IF they are followed properly and consistently.
I know it is difficult. For everyone. We are a sociable community and restricting our contact with one-another goes against our very nature. But we must do this now if we want to prevent exponential growth in cases, and a real risk to our healthcare services and to Islanders’ lives.
If we don’t do this now, freedoms will be lost.
Livelihoods will be lost.
And lives will be lost.
I want to remind ALL Islanders that the virus is in our community. You could catch it and not know that you have it. If you have any symptoms, please don’t just soldier on and go out to work or events. Please check the gov.je website and call the helpline on 445566 for advice and, if necessary, to get a test.
I want Islanders to be under no illusion. We are on the cusp of a lockdown.
The current trend needs only continue to make that happen. And I know I have been criticised for failing to speak plainly in the past.
So, I want to be clear.
I am more than disappointed with the behaviour of some. Like many Islanders, I am absolutely furious at anyone in our community who has recklessly and deliberately failed to follow the Public Health guidance.
It flies in the face of the overwhelming majority of our community who have acted selflessly and responsibly to protect the most vulnerable.
To those people who are still not doing enough, I say - take this final opportunity to mend your ways now. There won’t be another opportunity. Think about how your actions could harm others, including those who you care about.
This is the last chance we all have to maintain our freedoms and avoid unnecessary deaths.