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Minister for Health and Social Services' speech on Christmas guidance

10 December 2020

Thank you, Chief Minister, for setting out the detail of the guidance and how it has been designed to balance the competing needs of protecting our community’s health and giving Islanders the freedom to celebrate with their loved ones, safely.

I know that many Islanders are wondering how this this guidance will work for them.
So, let’s imagine what Christmas Day may look like for a family of two adults, and two children aged five and seven years old.

If this family were to attend a Christmas Morning religious service, they could do so without the service counting towards their three gatherings limit, thanks to the exception in place.

At the service, in addition to the family of four, there could be up to 16 other members of the congregation, from multiple households. This would not include religious celebrants and volunteers, of which there could be up to five. 

If this family then host Christmas lunch for other members of their wider family, including two sets of grandparents, and an Aunt and Uncle, with twins aged two, this would be one of their three permitted gatherings, and the ONLY ONE allowed that day. 

That is because it includes the maximum number of 10 people for whom the gatherings guidance applies. The two children aged under 3 are exempt from the guidance, as this meal takes place in a private home.

Finally, the family of four decide to go on an afternoon walk with a next-door neighbour who was alone during the day. 

As a smaller social group of only five people, this does NOT count as a gathering and does not count towards the three gathering limit.

The walk must be at a two metre physical distance from the neighbour in adherence with the Safe Distancing Regulation. 

I hope, as you can see from this example, that we have allowed as much flexibility into the guidance as possible, to allow for Christmas activities many of us would normally enjoy.
Islanders who are classed as high risk or plan to meet with those who are high risk, should take extra care to follow public health guidance to ensure that the risk of passing on the virus is minimised.

Consideration should also be given to minimising gatherings indoors and emphasising outside activity with a small number of non-household contacts.

To ensure compliance with the guidance, tomorrow I will sign an Order and bring into force legal restrictions on the numbers of people who may gather together.
I know this will be difficult for many Islanders who had planned on a more sociable Christmas with larger groups.

But please remember that the three gathering limit is there to protect the more vulnerable members of our families and our Island. 

Without these limitations, the spread of COVID-19 could prove fatal to those we love and want to protect the most, and the impact of uncontrolled gatherings would see our number of active cases rise exponentially.  

I would also encourage all Islanders to keep records of who they socialise with, to support the contact tracing team if they are found to be a direct contact of a positive case.
This will help reduce the time it takes to identify and contact direct contacts, and improves our capacity to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Sadly, those who find themselves in isolation over the festive period, must remain in isolation until they have completed the necessary duration. 

This is not the position we want any of our friends of family to be in, especially at a time of celebration, but it is absolutely essential to keep our community safe. And it is all the more reason to follow the public health guidance in the next couple of weeks.

I’ll now pass back to the Chief Minister.

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