14 March 2020
I’d like to begin by stressing that this a fast-moving situation and today I have asked our Medical Director to join us in addition to our Director General.
At the press briefing yesterday, Caroline referred to the modelling work that was being updated.
Late afternoon yesterday, the Government received this updated information from Health professionals. Based on this updated modelling, and expert advice from Dr Ivan Muscat, the Deputy Medical Officer for Health, we have issued a series of recommendations aimed at protecting Islanders and significantly containing the number of potential coronavirus cases in Jersey.
This modelling will continue to be an invaluable tool in helping us to develop our response to the virus in Jersey and will continue to be updated.
The decisions, which were made yesterday evening and released overnight have been discussed at a special meeting of the Council of Ministers this morning.
Further measures are under consideration and more information will be released in the coming days.
The actions we have recommended are both sensible and practical which members of the public can take immediately.
By doing so they will protect the most vulnerable within our community.
We are asking over 65s, who wish to continue in their roles, to limit unnecessary contact with people outside of their homes unless absolutely essential.
Islanders with a combination of flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, muscle aches and headaches should self-isolate until they are symptom-free, for a minimum of seven days.
And, from today, we’re asking that Islanders only undertake essential travel into and out of the Island.
You can still travel for medical and compassionate purposes. And key workers required to keep our essential services running can also continue travelling.
I would ask that all Islanders read, in detail, the guidance that can be found on gov.je and which has been shared extensively by the media.
Any Islander with immediate concerns can call our helpline on 445566.
I want to emphasise that these are evidence-led measures, based on the Island’s demographics and health model.
Our approach to the coronavirus pandemic is health-led, and all of our decisions are made based on the most up-to-date medical advice and modelling.
As I have said, that updated modelling was received late yesterday afternoon and was discussed in detail yesterday evening by Ministers before being published.
Following the meeting of the Council of Ministers this morning, the Emergency Council will meet again on Tuesday.
The Minister for Health and Social Services will speak in more detail on the importance of the health care measures we are recommending. But I want to emphasise that social distancing is one of the most important things that over-65s can do to protect themselves from coronavirus.
It could save lives by up to 35% in this age group and reduce the demand on our health service at the crucial times.
We are going to issue some detailed guidelines over the next few days as to what this will mean in practice for affected Islanders.
I want to thank officials from across the Government of Jersey for their continued work to protect our community. And I want to thank you the members of the media who are here over the weekend to ensure this important advice is circulated to Islanders.
Le me conclude by saying, we are a resilient community, and we all need to work together, to protect the vulnerable and to navigate our way successfully through this challenge.
That, I believe, we are well placed to do.
As you have heard from the Chief Minister, we have updated advice to Islanders based on very recent health modelling, and expert advice received from Dr Ivan Muscat, our Deputy Medical Officer for Health.
Those recommendations are aimed at protecting Islanders and significantly containing the impact of potential coronavirus cases in Jersey.
As the Chief Minister has said, our approach to the coronavirus pandemic is and must be health-led, all our decisions are based on the most up-to-date modelling.
Our officials are constantly receiving, and analysing and interpreting the most recent medical data. To be clear, we will issue, as Council of Ministers, advice appropriate for Jersey, based on that data, as soon as it is available.
I know that Islanders are looking at what is happening in other countries and wondering why Jersey is not always following suit with similar measures.
But it is about implementing the right measures at the right time for our community here.
This is because Jersey is some time behind other countries in cases first presenting. We are in a unique scenario and we must react to that scenario accordingly.
We must also strike the right balance between protecting our most vulnerable residents and doing this in a measured way that doesn’t put them at increased risk or adversely impact health services.
For this reason, I repeat what the Chief Minister has said. Social distancing is one of the most important things that over-65s can do to protect themselves from the virus.
Social distancing means limiting unnecessary contact with people outside of your household unless absolutely essential.
We are currently recommending this for over 65s who are not essential for the running of the Island’s services.
For those 65 year olds and above who do choose to adhere to social distancing, when not in the home they should keep to a distance of 1 metre, or 3 feet, from other people.
There may be, therefore, the need to avoid large public gatherings where this is not possible.
If you work, or are not at home, you should avoid using public transport during peak hours unless essential.
I want to emphasise that social distancing and
self-isolation are not the same. While you are practicing social distancing, we can still go out, get fresh air, do our gardening, and walk our dogs along a quiet lane.
For those practicing social distancing, the key advice is just not to come into close contact with others.
Self-isolation however is quite different – it requires you to avoid any contact with others and to remain in a physically isolated space so that you cannot transmit the virus.
I would urge Islanders not to become alarmed, but to follow and share the published government advice which is based on good health advice. Please do not ‘panic buy’ food or medicines, think of others and only buy what you need.
Whilst I understand that there is much fear around coronavirus, most people who may contract the virus will experience mild symptoms and will not need to engage with our health system.
We know as well that this may be a challenging time for people emotionally and mentally too. I’d urge people to be considerate to one another, and be prepared to live a little differently and quietly for a while.
If people wish they can access the Listening Lounge by phone for support and I would urge us all to continue talking with friends and family and neighbours.
I would urge Islanders to access our online resources at gov.je first, and only turn to our helpline on 445566 if they have urgent concerns about their health. Doing that will allow us to ensure the most critical enquiries are escalated first.
I want to echo the praise of the Chief Minister – thanking officials from across the Government of Jersey, particularly our wonderful Health and Community Services staff who are providing care across the whole Island all of them are doing professional, dedicated work to protect our community.
I am proud of our Island. We are a resilient community. We will work together.
Please listen to the latest advice, share it, and let us go forward and support each other.
I appreciate that the recommendations made today and the days ahead will have a significant impact on some Islanders day-to-day lives, and a consequential effect on our businesses.
But that advice is right for our community.
The Island’s public health is, and must remain, our first priority.
However, alongside that focus, we will work quickly and effectively to ensure that any negative impacts on our economy are kept to a minimum, and that employees and employers are supported and protected.
Officials are already exploring the likely effects of the most exposed sectors of our economy, including hospitality, travel, retail, and agriculture and fisheries.
The measures that are necessary to protect our community will see those sectors impacted by lower visitor numbers and reduced footfall, which will consequently lead to a reduced demand for local products.
I am leading a team of officials over the weekend to determine appropriate measures that the Government can implement, in a very short timeframe, to support those industries.
These will be in addition to the measures already announced, including deferring the payment of social security contributions, the deferral of GST payments, and payment deferrals where the Government is a landlord to a local business.
We are working with our arms-length organisation, Jersey Business, who have been given extra funding to advise and support businesses to enact their business continuity plans and to continue trading.
We are also considering risks to the Island’s critical supply chain, particularly in relation to sea routes, and this week the Emergency Council endorsed measures to provide greater resilience on the key route to the UK.
I am grateful to Condor who have already implemented measures to provide additional resilience to the Island’s freight capacity.
We are working closely with the Ports of Jersey to increase awareness for travellers at the Airport and Ferry terminals on preventative steps, good hand hygiene and how to seek advice if they are concerned about their health.
The Coronavirus Business Group will continue to meet regularly, to closely monitor the continuing impact on businesses, and ensure appropriate Government support is available.
I know this will be a difficult time for local businesses. But we have a robust economy and secure public finances.
However, coronavirus is having a significant impact on our local economy but it will be temporary. Support for business is support for people, protecting lives and livelihoods and we will stand firmly behind our economy, our businesses and their employees.
Finally, my advice to Islanders is to exercise good common sense, follow the best health and travel advice and within that advice to continue to support your local economy as much as you possibly can.