02 April 2020
The Government announced today that it is establishing an on-Island Coronavirus antibody testing programme, following the purchase of 150,000 tests from a UK supplier, with the first batch of 50,000 tests due to arrive in the next few weeks. This is to help determine who is and who is not immune to the virus.
A separate consignment of 5,000 COVID-19 diagnostic test kits (cartridges that test for the presence of the virus – not the antibodies) is currently on its way from California, via the Netherlands and the UK. The Government is working closely with the supplier and international authorities to ensure that the tests will be delivered as soon as possible and they will now be supplied in multiple, separate batches to speed up the delivery of the first consignment. The Government was recently informed that the delivery date of the first batch, which was made public earlier this week, is now later than originally intended.
The new antibody testing programme announced today will be Island-wide and will be available first to essential front-line workers towards the end of April, and then to everyone across the Island. This will help health staff to understand who has Coronavirus, and who has had it, recovered and gained immunity.
The test will be performed by a simple pin prick, undertaken by trained staff. Because of Jersey’s size, the Government is able to roll out the testing programme to all households.
The antibody testing programme is intended to:
- support and protect our front-line workforce
- provide a managed exit from the Stay Home restrictions
- promote economic recovery.
Many people who contract the virus have mild or negligible symptoms, which presents an issue for essential workers who may be carrying COVID-19 without knowing it, because they still feel healthy. By testing all essential workers early, we will know who among them has become immune and can work without being a risk to others.
By testing all households, perhaps on more than one occasion, health staff will also be able to create a picture of how the virus is spreading in the Island. This will help the Government to plan any future changes to restrictions. This will not affect the Stay Home instruction in the short term, but it does mean that policies can be updated more quickly to reflect where we are on the infection curve. It is absolutely vital for people to understand that adhering to the Stay Home policy and social distancing when out for their two-hour break is essential to help flatten and delay the curve.
The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, said: “The Island-wide testing programme is very welcome news, which I hope will reassure Islanders that the Government is doing everything we can to map the spread of the virus in more detail, so we can implement the right measures to contain it. These timely interventions will help us to save lives.
“Officers have been working hard with the supplier to make sure that Jersey remains a priority in the global supply chain. While we are disappointed that the COVID-19 test kits will not be here in the timeframe initially announced, we will provide an update as soon as they arrive.”
Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, said: “I want to thank our health staff who have worked so tirelessly to devise this ambitious programme under rapid conditions. Their proactive work in securing a testing system that can be rolled out across the whole Island will help us to stay on the front foot in our fight to contain and delay the spread of Coronavirus and shield our most vulnerable Islanders against it.”