29 May 2020
An update on the Island's management of COVID-19 from the Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf:
Thank you, Chief Minister.
We are continuing to move, cautiously and gradually, along the pathway set out in our Safe Exit Framework, to ease the lockdown measures.
We can do this because we have COVID-19 transmission well under control in our community. Our number of active cases is very low – now in single figures. Our R rate, that is the rate of infection, remains below 0.4. And, in the last seven days, only 2 new cases have been recorded from 1463 tests.
We are in a very fortunate position. But this is not a time for complacency.
As the Chief Minister said, and our guidelines are absolutely clear on this, we still need everyone to stay 2 metres away from others outside their household. This is the most effective way to control the spread of the virus. Two metres is a distance that protects from the airborne droplets of a cough or sneeze, and it also reminds us to avoid handshakes, hugs, or kissing friends’ cheeks, as is customary in more normal times.
Following advice from the Medical Officer of Health, the new Regulations passed yesterday mean a further easing of the legal restrictions that have been in place since the end of March, but do not change the Government’s guidance which is supported by medical advice.
And because there is now a low level of COVID-19 transmission in the Island, the legal restrictions in the former “Stay at Home” Order that have kept us in our homes are no longer necessary or proportionate.
When they were introduced, they significantly curtailed civil liberties of Islanders. They said we needed to stay in our homes for 22 hours each day, time outside was for limited purposes, and we could not visit families or friends in other households.
No government should impinge on civil liberties for any longer than necessary. And it is no longer necessary or proportionate to do so. Yesterday 33 Members of the States Assembly agreed, and the Island is in a better place as a result of that vote.
Some Members thought the rules we passed yesterday were still too tough, but I believe they are necessary and were brought in following medical advice.
And I echo the Chief Minister in hoping they don't have to be used. So, Parents and Guardians, please ensure that your children understand the importance of continuing to safely distance in public.
You will be held responsible for ensuring that your children follow the rules, if it is reasonably practical to prevent a them from getting too close to others. The Regulations do not apply to private houses and gardens. Neither do they apply to workplaces, shops and construction sites, which must still follow tailored public health guidelines to minimise risk and protect the health and safety of workers and customers, even inside and in circumstances where the 2-metre rule cannot apply.
I want to touch briefly on our ongoing testing and tracing programme. PCR or swab tests are now being offered on a proactive basis to essential workers from inside and outside Government, to help identify if there are any asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 in our community.
I would encourage all those who are eligible and offered PCR tests to take up the opportunity to have them. It may be briefly uncomfortable – but is essential to keeping our vulnerable Islanders safe.
Our antibody testing programme, which is a wide study to understand the spread of the virus in our community, has been expanded to essential workers and those who worked away from home during lockdown, as well as a representative sample of the Island community.
This week, over 3,300 antibody tests have already taken place at 2 locations.
And at the Airport we have begun the start of a robust trial scheme that will allow those arriving in the Island to have a series of tests to reduce their period of self-isolation, if they are shown to be negative.
We will be providing details to media, and the public, on the arrivals scheme and the Deputy Chief Minister will provide an update during the Press Conference on Monday.
I want to thank every single member of the team that has been working, for long hours and often seven days a week, on the testing and tracing programme. That includes all of the medical, technical, logistics and communications staff.
They have done outstanding work, and as a community I know we are grateful for the reassurance and understanding of the spread of COVID-19 that their work provides.
Finally, I want to remind Islanders that day surgery and diagnostic testing resumed at the General Hospital on Tuesday.
However, some patients have decided not to come to the hospital at the present time even though we judged they were the ones most in need of treatment.
I would like to send a message to them that our hospital is safe. We are following detailed guidance from the NHS, local clinicians and our infection control team.
The hospital has been reorganised into entirely separate hot and cold areas and patients being admitted for elective procedures will be cared for within the “cold” Non-COVID, areas without risk from the “hot”, COVID-19, area. All areas of the hospital are also organised to observe safe physical distancing, including ward areas.
All staff and patients are tested and currently there are only 2 patients in the hospital who has tested positive. All staff are fully equipped with the PPE they need.
We understand why patients may be afraid at this time, but we wish to reassure them that they will be safe in our care.
If they are called to come to the hospital for the treatment they need, we ask them to respond. We are confident they will be kept safe.
Thank you, again, for all your efforts and patience as we navigate this crisis. It has given us the time and capability to successfully combat COVID-19, and keep our Island safe.
I’ll now hand back to the Chief Minister.