17 April 2020
It’s been a significant week in our ongoing preparations to ensure that Jersey is ready to deal with the peak of Coronavirus infection, when that time comes.
I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on those decisions, to update you on our latest healthcare position, and talk about how I want us to communicate more effectively with you in future.
Yesterday we set out details of the Ethical Framework for critical care.
That Framework ensures that, if the worst cases arises where there are limitations to the treatment we can provide - and healthcare professionals are presented with difficult clinical decisions about who gets critical care and who does not – then Islanders who can most benefit from critical care interventions will receive them.
I want to be very clear, age will not be used to discriminate when selecting who will benefit from critical care.
I will say without hesitation that it was the most difficult decision we have ever had to take as a Council of Ministers.
We want to save as many lives as possible, and it is our hope that clinical staff will never have to implement the Framework.
But it is absolutely right that the Framework is in place to provide a legal guide for critical care staff if faced with these difficult decisions.
And it is absolutely right that we publish it, so that Islanders have transparency on how those decisions would be made.
We also decided earlier this week to change the way we report the deaths of people infected with COVID-19.
Now, I understand this is also a very sensitive subject for many Islanders, and that we will always feel profound sadness when a family member or friend passes, whatever the cause.
We will now report a death as being related to coronavirus when the virus is mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.
So, this means where COVID-19 is mentioned in the death certificate as a primary or secondary cause of death, we will report it.
Being prepared for increased infection, and having the resources available to treat and save the lives of as many Islanders as possible underpins all of our decision making.
We will not be putting money before people.
That is why we made the decision to invest in the construction of the Nightingale Hospital at Millbrook Playing Fields.
I will be giving a full briefing on the Nightingale Hospital on Monday, and the media are being provided with the details of the site selection, specification and timeline for this project.
But right now, I want to absolutely reassure local residents that their protection is, and always will be, our highest priority.
We have taken every precaution to ensure that no one will be put at risk from the hospital when it is operational.
All air from the hospital will go through hospital grade filtration before it is discharged, at a low velocity, into the atmosphere. This degree of filtration is the same, and in some cases more, than that used in other Nightingale hospitals in the UK.
Covid-19 is transmitted by attachment to large respiratory droplets. These are heavy and quickly fall to the floor. The environment will be decontaminated in exactly the same way as we do in the General Hospital.
I’d like to alert Islanders that for a few days, from Monday, the inner road will be closed to allow the construction team to connect into the services that the hospital will need.
I’d now like to look at our overall healthcare position.
It has now been 38 days since the first Coronavirus infection was detected in Jersey.
In that time, we have tested 2,006 samples for COVID-19, and have received 1,718 negative results and 234 positive results.
We are awaiting the results of 54 tests.
We continue to have good capacity to treat Islanders in hospital.
There are currently 72 Islanders being treated in hospital for a range of medical conditions.
Of those, 21 are Coronavirus patients. And a very small number of those are subsequently receiving intensive care.
We have 125 beds available today in the hospital.
There are also 3 cases of COVID-19 currently being treated in our community facilities.
Sadly 11 Islanders have now passed away during this crisis. And I would like to extend my sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the families and friends of these individuals.
From next week we will publish further details that islanders have been requesting, including the number of Islanders who have recovered from COVID-19 and demographic details of those who have been treated.
We currently are able to invasively ventilate 24 critically ill patients, and have capacity to non-invasively ventilate a further 19 patients.
I am pleased to say that an additional 7 invasive ventilators are due for imminent delivery as are 10 non-invasive ventilation machines.
This compares very favourably against the UK ratio of only 10 ventilators to every 100,000 people.
On-Island PCR or ‘swab’ testing began last week. We currently have 4,500 PCR swabs available, with 10,000 on order.
We also have received the first 10,000 of 50,000 immunity test kits.
We will continue to publish our infections curve every Thursday, which you can see on screen now.
As you will see from the blue curve, the measures that we are taking through social distancing and the Stay Home initiative appear to be starting to slow the rate of new cases. The red part of that curve shows data since we introduced our new testing regime.
However, as I outlined yesterday, because of the low number of cases it is still to early to accurately state precisely our position relative to the curve.
We will continue to carefully monitor the spread of COVID-19 through our community and hope to utilise the new antibody testing kits we have acquired this week.
These tests will be used to develop a detailed picture of how coronavirus has spread in Jersey, including through asymptomatic transmission. It will also show us who has developed the necessary antibodies to provide immunity and inform our decisions to ease the current restrictions.
We hope to begin that process from the end of next week, once their reliability has been confirmed by the technical team in our laboratory.
On a separate note, today I was delighted to visit the team who manage the supply and distribution of PPE in Jersey. They showed me the very impressive portal to control the supply of PPE to organisations on the Island, which ensures everyone gets what they need, when they need it.
I want to conclude by saying that I have been listening carefully to comments from the public, and from the media, about how we communicate, and ways we can improve.
I completely understand the desire for more information.
At times where we feel that we’re not in full control of our lives, we need to understand what is being done by Government to protect us and how effective those measures are.
Information gives us reassurance and stability.
I have also talked about the careful balance between patient confidentiality and public interest.
But we want to ensure that Islanders have the information they need and are able to ask questions.
As I have already said, we will be publishing additional data, going forward, on how many patients have recovered and associated demographics.
Our website continues to be a critical source of information for Islanders. Since the first positive case of COVID-19 was recorded, we have had 2.8 million visits to our dedicated webpages on gov.je and are seeing approximately 46,000 visits a day.
But there have been requests to improve the way that we our site conveys the latest news and advice.
We have listened to these requests, taken them on board, and will be refreshing our site over the weekend.
To date, I’ve given five press conferences and taken part in a Twitter Q&A session. Other Ministers and officers have taken part in a further eight press conferences, as well a number of briefings to States Members. But because of the challenging and urgent decisions that we’ve made over the past two weeks, we’ve not been able to hold more regular press conferences, as we would have liked.
From next week, we will move to a series of more regular press conferences, at least two a week with myself – on Monday and Friday – and with other Ministers during the week.
We will invite the media to attend these Press Conferences to ask questions and to closely examine the Government’s response.
There will also be briefings by the Chief Executive and senior officers on the operational aspects of our response to COVID-19.
I’ll continue use videos like this one when my diary means that I can’t host a full Press Conference, such as when I’m sitting in the States Assembly or the Emergencies Council.
These videos are being shared with the local media to enable Islanders who don’t use social media, or YouTube, to still stay up to date, via their preferred form of media.
During States sittings, I will continue to answer Questions Without Notice from your elected representatives on the Government’s response to this crisis and our plans to keep Islanders safe. You can view these online via the States Assembly website or by tuning in to BBC Radio Jersey.
I know that this is a challenging time for all Islanders, and I have been so proud to witness the determination with which our Island has met this crisis.
I know that it is easy to become frustrated when, despite the sunshine, we must stay home.
But it is so important that now, more than ever, we continue to stay the course and stay home to save lives.
Do it for those in our Island who are most vulnerable.
Do it for your family and for your friends.
Do it for our fantastic health care staff who have courageously approached this crisis head-on.
Thank you for taking the time to listen. Please stay home this weekend and stay safe.