26 June 2020
The Safer Travel Period has been developed following careful consideration of medical advice from STAC and the results of our border testing trial.
Ministers have been briefed on several occasions by the Medical Officer for Health and her colleagues, and their advice has been clear: “There is a need to balance the risk of increased COVID-19 cases and the negative impact of losing air and sea links.”
To date, our trial scheme for border testing has proved very successful.
92% of all arriving passengers have participated in the trial, with 737 people receiving a PCR test on arrival.
Those participating were then tested twice more, on days 4 and 7, with an antibody serology test on the day 4 follow-up.
Those not participating were required to self-isolate for 14 days, and have done so.
To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified in any travellers arriving in Jersey during the border testing trial.
The exercise has provided essential learning about how border testing can and will work in practice, and about the likely low levels of infections that are anticipated in arriving passengers as safer travel resumes.
We must also remember the strong position that the Island finds itself in in today.
We have a very low rate of infection, and high level of compliance with the Health guidelines.
All current cases – and that is only 6 – are asymptomatic, and no one is receiving treatment for COVID-19 in the general hospital.
Live infections in England, where the majority of travellers will orginate, stood at 1 infected person for every 1700 uninfected on the 13 June, and this figure continues to improve.
This policy is aimed at maintaining our strong position.
In accepting the advice of STAC, Ministers understand that it is not possible to maintain a complete travel lockdown indefinitely until a vaccine is found.
Such a position would not be consistent with causing the least overall harm to our community – both medical, social and economic.
We know that there is a distinct mental health impact on Islanders who are unable to travel to see their families in other countries, many of whom may be elderly or vulnerable.
There is also the ongoing impact on our traditional hospitality industry.
77% of output in the hospitality sector was generated by visitors in 2015.
The sector also has significant importance in sustaining Island connectivity by boosting demand for flights, and in other sectors by making the island an attractive place to live and work.
The Government’s COVID-19 Strategy sets out the Chief Economist’s appraisal of economic risks related to reduced travel, and recognises the wider harms associated with COVID restrictions.
He said that the impact of travel restrictions on the finance sector in the medium term is likely to be much larger than at present, and larger still if Jersey’s competitors have fewer restrictions.
The changes we are making, in introducing the safer travel period are part of our Island living with COVID-19 as a global reality.
We cannot continue to keep our borders closed indefinitely. We must open up again to the rest of the world carefully, sensitively and in a controlled way. Ministers believe the Safer Travel Policy does just that.
We recognise that the public have strongly held differing views on this matter and that we each have a responsibility in how we act and follow health guidance so that vulnerable islanders are protected and importantly supported and we must continue to act in a way which continues to suppress the virus. We must and can together overcome our fear and learn together to live with COVID 19 and act in a proportionate way.