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Enhanced on-Island testing within COVID-19 Strategy update

02 November 2020

The Government of Jersey has today, announced the
COVID-19 Strategy update: Preparing for Winter.

This update does not replace the main COVID-19 Strategy which was published on 3 June which outlines the Government’s aim to suppress the spread of coronavirus, contain cases where they occur and to shield those at greater risk. 

This strategy update includes eight key actions which aim to avoid future Island-wide, restrictive measures. These include:
  1. Increasing non-travel related COVID-19 testing, surveillance and case identification
  2. Continually updating the classifications of countries and regions and testing and isolation requirements accordingly
  3. Introducing mask policies for indoor public spaces
  4. Changing shielding policies to keep people safe but connected
  5. Increasing vaccinations for flu and, when available, COVID-19
  6. Ensuring all of Government is prepared and has developed response strategies
  7. A readiness to escalate measures which cause the least overall harm
  8. Communicating a need for collective responsibility alongside law enforcement

The enhanced workforce testing programme will inform a large part of the strategic plan to contain cases. 

The Minister for Health and Social Services said: “The Government’s objective is to keep infection rates low, while balancing the impact of restrictions on Islanders life and work. Our guidance acts as layers and the more layers we surround ourselves with, the greater our protection against this virus becomes.

“Over the summer months, we prioritised testing at our borders due to the large number of people arriving from various jurisdictions, some with high cases of COVID-19.

“This enhanced testing programme will include a particular focus on testing Islanders, who’s public facing jobs put them at higher risk of infection and those who are more likely to transmit the virus onto those who are high risk. 

“A range of professions who maintain close customer contact have also been identified for this enhanced testing programme, representing almost 40,000 Islanders. If we begin to find positive cases within certain occupations, we will scale up the testing for this group to stop the ongoing spread.

“Groups of workers will be offered different frequencies of testing according to the perceived level of risk, and we will remain flexible in the potential need to raise the priority for particular occupations.”

Workforce testing will include frontline workers such as hospital staff, community health and care home staff, primary care and ambulance, followed by a range of professionals with close contact with vulnerable people and then other occupations with close customer contact. How often these groups will be tested will be determined by risk.

Deputy Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat said: “We have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases which have been linked to arrivals as a result of the sharp rise in cases in surrounding jurisdictions, in particular the UK. 

“Colder weather will increase the risk of on-Island transmission and we need to proactively identify cases of unknown source within the community, to avoid forward transmission. Apart from testing in relation to symptoms, admissions to hospital and care homes we will therefore significantly enhance non-travel related testing to seek out cases and contain spread before clusters and localised outbreaks form. 

“A targeted and effective response to cases is necessary to avoid disproportionate harm to Islanders health as a result of blanket restrictions, and this needs to be supplemented by population wide adherence to all the relevant public health guidelines. We also continue to work on the delivery plans for a COVID-19 vaccine although there is not yet a guaranteed delivery date.”
Islanders are therefore strongly encouraged to continue following the current public health measures which now include; wearing masks in indoor public places especially where contact tracing and physical distancing cannot be easily done, increased hand, respiratory and touch surface hygiene, and to maintain physical distancing of at least 1 metre with individuals outside their household.
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