25 March 2020
Statement from the Chief Minister – health, community and economy
First, I want to talk about what the Government has done to strengthen our healthcare system. The Government and the Island’s 13 GP practices have been talking about how to work together to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic.
I can announce today that from next week more than a hundred GPs in Jersey are to be employed directly by the Health and Community Services department, for the first time ever. This is a landmark agreement for our Island. Our shared priority is to save lives.
So we have come together to ensure that Islanders can have access to health professionals as quickly as possible, at a time when health resources are needed most.
Starting today, and initially for the next four months, all GPs will be directly employed by the Health department.
It will provide more resilience for the hospital to care for seriously ill patients.
This agreement gives Health and Community Services more capacity and more flexibility to adapt to changing needs, and puts Jersey’s healthcare system in a stronger position to tackle COVID-19.
It is a significant step forward in ensuring that we have a resilient health service which is prepared and able to save lives.
Support for community and volunteering
The second update is on the support that the Government is providing for Islanders in partnership with community, charitable and voluntary groups.
We have set up a Government Community Taskforce to coordinate the voluntary and community sector and parish response to Coronavirus, to identify, predict and meet the needs of Islanders – and especially vulnerable Islanders – as they develop.
It is led by Deputy Judy Martin, with Deputy Carolyn Labey, Constable Simon Crowcroft and a further representative from the Comité de Connètables. On Monday, we launched our volunteer gateway – volunteer.je.
It offers advice for people looking to volunteer and to the voluntary and community sector. You may also contact your parish hall.
At their request, We are also developing a toolkit for parishes on how best to organise and offer support.
The Government has agreed that the Housing Gateway will manage the need to rehouse homeless people in hotels and yesterday we secured emergency powers to prevent evictions.
Yesterday, we also launched a Connect Me form on gov.je, to enable Islanders to let the Government know what support they need.
Customer and Local Services are supporting this, as well as taking referrals from the helpline.
We are working with the new Children and Families Hub to make sure that information channels are clear and that all activity is appropriately safeguarded.
We have worked with the Salvation Army to set up a central food bank, and have established a charitably-funded agreement with Waitrose to guarantee supplies to it.
And we have identified the key areas of support for Islanders.
- access to food for those who need it,
- distributing groceries to people who are self-isolating.
- access to medicines and medical supplies
- home care, including practicalities like laundry
- care for adults, children and family services
- mental health and wellbeing
So this is where we are targeting our efforts. We will announce further details over the next few days.
I want to thank all of those from community and voluntary organisations, parishes, donors and volunteers for coming together in this collective effort to support vulnerable Islanders. We can be proud that the community spirit is shining through in these challenging times.
Support for Islanders’ livelihoods
My final update today is what we are doing to protect and support Islanders’ livelihoods.
The Government knows that many Islanders are genuinely worried and fear for their jobs and their incomes, and local businesses are anxious about how they will survive the pandemic.
We have already announced a number of measures designed to help Islanders to put food on the table and businesses to reduce costs. On 12 March, we announced an immediate deferral of all GST payments and social security contributions from employers and employees due to the Government over the next six months.
We estimate that this will provide £80 million of support directly to Jersey businesses and the local economy. We also agreed to consider rent deferrals or renegotiations on a case-by-case basis, where the Government or a Government-owned company is a landlord to a local business.
Last week, we announced a £50 million loan guarantee scheme to support business, which will be administered through Jersey Business and will be ready for launch on or around next Monday.
We announced a Jersey Recovery Fund, also worth £50 million, to support larger businesses which are delivering a wider public good or supporting an essential strategic purpose.
And we also announced a payroll co-funding scheme, which will initially provide a Government wage subsidy of £200 a week for six weeks for businesses and the self-employed who are severely impacted by Coronavirus, with the first payment due at the beginning of April.
In response to our ongoing discussions with business representatives, we have also agreed to bring forward a further package of support, which we will announce over the next 48 hours.
To help Islanders with their bills, we’ve worked with the utility companies to give customers flexibility in their payment terms, including payment deferrals. To help people to work at home, the Island’s telecoms providers have boosted their data capability, at no extra cost.
And as I already mentioned, to help Islanders in rent difficulties, we have secured emergency powers to prevent evictions. The Government is also the largest spender in the local economy and an important customer for local businesses. This will continue to be the case. So we will be a prompt payer of invoices to local business.
We will prioritise buying local … and procuring local.
We want to encourage early conversations between banks and their customers, and hope to see practical solutions offered, including enhanced overdraft and loan availability, and capital repayment holidays.
We are putting support measures and extra money in place to advise and support businesses to implement their business continuity plans.
And the Coronavirus Business Liaison Group will continue to meet regularly, to understand the ongoing impact on businesses, and ensure that appropriate Government support is available.
As I have said, we are refining the package of support over the next 48 hours. But we have to be clear that we have a finite amount of money in our Strategic Reserve, and we have already committed £400 million of that in financial support for our Island.
We will not make snap judgements now that will leave our economy in a worse state in the future.
And we must not leave ourselves without the resources we will need to support the economic recovery when we come through this.
But I can assure you that we are focussed on protecting both lives and livelihoods.
We are facing an unprecedented situation. Like all Governments around the world we are working harder and faster than ever to understand the situation, from a health, social and economic perspective, and to put the right measures in place, based as always on expert advice.
Today I have updated Islanders on a number of announcements and I will continue to advise Islanders as soon as we have any new information.
Our priority is to save as many lives as possible.