30 November 2020
As Minister for Health and Social Services, I cannot overstate the importance of acting now to protect our Healthcare services from becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks.
We are currently seeing a dramatic rise in symptomatic cases of Coronavirus in Jersey.
Unchecked, within weeks that will evolve into an increase in hospitalisations and we will need to open the Nightingale Ward.
And once we see an increase in hospitalisation, despite the best efforts of our medical team, we will see an increase in deaths.
This is how the virus has played out across the world. In Jersey, we cannot pretend it will be different. It’s a simple as that. If we do not act now, then we could see our Health Services and the dedicated staff working within them, becoming overwhelmed at the very point that we enter the Christmas holiday period.
This is not what any of us wants to happen.
Ministers have agreed the following measures to prevent the further spread of the virus, identify more cases and clusters, and protect the vulnerable and our health services.
Firstly, from Monday 7th December – a week today - everyone should work from home, unless it is absolutely necessary to attend their workplace.
Today I have also signed into force an Order which makes mask use compulsory in supermarkets, shops, post offices, banks, health care settings and taxis. This will take effect from 10am tomorrow morning.
A wider requirement to wear masks in additional settings is being reviewed, and there may be an increase in the places where masks must be worn. An exemption certificate will be available for people whose health conditions mean they cannot safely wear masks.
And a further Order to make limitations on gatherings a legal requirement will be signed as soon as it is ready.
We are also looking at increasing physical distancing requirements from the current minimum of one metre and officers will provide Ministers with options for doing so in the coming week.
To bring these changes into place will require us to revisit the financial support available for certain business sectors, to ensure they are not adversely impacted by the changes necessary to protect Islanders’ health.
We are also looking at whether, and how, to introduce Household Bubble guidance across the Christmas period. Ministers will be provided with options on this measure later this week, and announce a decision rapidly.
To make our hospital as safe as possible, all patient-facing Health and Community Services staff will now be offered PCR testing every two weeks. If they do not take it, or do not attend, then they will be moved to non-patient facing roles.
Now is also the time that we need to work even harder to protect Islanders at high-risk. We have 3,000 Islanders who are clinically considered as high-risk. They are at greatest risk if they contract COVID.
This is the time we must ask them to increase shielding measures, and to reduce contact with those outside of their households, especially in enclosed spaces. And to be clear, other households includes family members living in other homes. We will be providing bespoke guidance to these Islanders in the coming days, including support for their mental wellbeing. They are not to blame for this spike in cases, and yet they will pay a high price for other people’s selfishness.
Now is also the time to identify more cases and clusters.
We will be introducing a testing programme for Islanders aged over 60, focused on those who might be vulnerable and aren’t covered by other testing programmes.
Because Covid-19 is spreading among office workers, we are also working with leaders in the financial services and legal sectors to offer workforce testing to the 13,000 Islanders employed in those key industries – a significant expansion in our overall workplace testing regime.
These measures have the capability to significantly reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading in our community – and, at the same time, prevent us from taking the drastic step of entering a full lockdown.
But they will only work if every single one of us, whatever our age, background, gender, or job takes responsibility for our actions and acts accordingly.
Please do so. For all of us in this our community.