02 April 2020
Tonight, I’d like to update you on our continuing healthcare preparations and on one issue that I know is a real concern for Islanders.
So far, more than 1,000 Islanders have been tested for Coronavirus, through the UK laboratory at Colindale.
We have been reporting the results of those tests as soon as we get them.
As of today, we have had 96 positive results, 872 negative results and we are awaiting the results of 247 tests.
Testing of who has the virus is important, because it enables our health service to provide the right care to those who have contracted the virus.
And it also enables us to identify who needs to go into isolation until they are no longer infectious.
We’ve been relying on a laboratory in London to do the tests for Jersey, and as you know there have been delays in getting the results, because it is very overstretched.
So, we’ve taken steps to establish a testing regime in the Island, so we will not have to rely on UK labs.
Jersey has had our own testing facility for many years and we have ordered 5,000 Coronavirus test kits to use with our own diagnostic machine.
On Monday, based on the information we had at the time, I said we hoped that those test kits would be here within 48 hours.
But that is no longer the case.
Our shipment of 5,000 test kits is on its way – but it is coming from California, via the Netherlands and the UK.
We’re working closely with the supplier and international authorities to ensure that those kits will be delivered as soon as possible.
And we’ve arranged for them to be supplied in multiple, separate batches, to speed up the delivery.
I won’t give an estimated date, because the timetable is not in our control.
I’ll update you as soon as they arrive.
I know that you, like me, will be very frustrated and disappointed that these tests have not already arrived.
But I want to thank the officers who have been working hard with the supplier to make sure that Jersey remains a priority in the global supply chain.
There is some positive news about testing, that I want to share with you.
As well as testing whether people actually have Coronavirus, there is a completely different test, which checks whether someone has contracted and recovered from COVID-19 and has therefore hopefully developed antibodies giving them immunity to it in future.
Many people who contract the virus have mild or no symptoms, which means that essential workers may be carrying COVID-19 without knowing it.
Accurate antibody testing will provide the vital information we need to see how Coronavirus is spreading in Jersey – as well as potentially enabling us to relax restrictions for people who have developed immunity.
So I’m pleased to tell you that we’re establishing an on-Island testing programme and have bought 150,000 tests from a UK supplier.
The first batch – of 50,000 tests – is due to arrive this month.
The test is a simple pin prick, performed by trained staff.
Essential front-line workers will be tested first, towards the end of April.
And because Jersey is small, we aim to roll out the testing programme to all households on the Island.
By testing all essential workers, we’ll know who’s become immune and can work without being a risk to others.
And, we will re-test Islanders throughout the epidemic to understand how their circumstances and those of the Island, change.
With this testing in place, the virus won’t be able to hide from us.
And it won’t be able to spread, unchecked in our community.
By testing all households, perhaps more than once, we’ll be able to create a picture of how the virus is spreading.
This will help the Government to plan any changes to restrictions on the public and businesses.
I want to be clear though.
This won’t affect the Stay Home instruction in the coming days and weeks.
It remains in force.
I know this will be hard for Islanders.
But only by staying home and in your own garden - if you have one - for most of the time… And by adhering to the two hours rule, can you ensure that you’re reducing unnecessary risk.
Stay home and social distancing
Testing is only one part of our approach to reducing the impact of Coronavirus in Jersey.
Earlier today, Dr Muscat gave an update on our results and the Island’s position on the infection curve.
His presentation is available to you all on our YouTube channel – just search for ‘Government of Jersey’.
It’s also available on all our social media channels.
We are working closely with the media to cover the presentations and I want to thank them for dialling in to our conferences, asking questions and keeping the public so well informed.
I’m hugely grateful to Dr Muscat – as I know Islanders are – for his hard work, alongside that of his medical colleagues.
It is his advice, and his understanding of how viruses spread, that underpin the measures we have taken to protect our community.
We must and we will continue to follow medical advice if we are to protect our vulnerable friends and family and reduce the impact on our community.
So it’s vital that we all Stay Home and follow social distancing when we go outside for our two hours of shopping and exercise.
This weekend will be the first of many tests of our resolve.
But I’m confident Islanders will meet that challenge and keep one another safe by staying home.
Communicating with Islanders
It is vitally important that we keep you informed about our efforts to manage the impact of Coronavirus in Jersey – including testing, case numbers and the steps we’re taking to protect jobs and livelihoods.
So I’ll continue to publish daily updates whenever business allows.
Tomorrow morning, you’ll get a live update from the Chief Executive, Charlie Parker; the Director General of Justice and Home Affairs, Julian Blazeby; and the Chief of Police, Robin Smith.
They’ll discuss what’s happening behind the scenes, and the structures that the Government has put in place to coordinate our emergency response, to support Islanders through this pandemic.
As I’ve said many times, thank you for your patience and your cooperation as you continue to stay at home.
It will make the biggest difference of all.
Please support one another.
Call, Skype or FaceTime to check in with friends and family.
And you can call our helpline on 445566 for advice or contact your Parish Hall.
And finally, on behalf of all Islanders, I want to thank everyone in Government and in the community who is working to keep our Island running and all of us safe.
People are working long hours away from their families – at night and at the weekends too – to make sure we’re as prepared as we can be for the rise in infection and the pressures on our health services.
They come to work for you, so please stay home for them.
Please, stay home, and save lives.
Thank you for taking the time to listen. Stay safe.