07 January 2021
Good afternoon, and a very Happy New Year to you and to your families.
I want to begin by thanking all Islanders for your continued commitment, cooperation, and for the vital changes you made to your Christmas and New Year plans in order to keep the most vulnerable in our community safe from COVID-19.
The extended circuit breaker that we implemented through a series of measures in November and December 2020 IS working.
Test positivity and case rates have dropped. And over the last 7 days, the average number of new cases per day has fallen to 21.
Today, the number of new COVID-19 cases recorded was 16, and the total number of actives cases in our Island is now 302.
That is a drop of 628 cases across the last two weeks; as a direct result of the steps we have taken, together, as a community.
And because of that we can look to the coming months of 2021 with some hope.
Hope that we can, and will, see the end of restrictions that keep families and friends apart, and businesses closed.
Hope that we continue the effective and efficient rollout of our vaccination programme, immunising the most vulnerable in our community.
And hope that we can allow Islanders to resume normal lives as soon as possible, in a safe, controlled and measured way.
Jersey is vaccinating faster than most other countries globally.
We currently rank third in the world for the number of vaccinations per 100 people – behind only Israel and Bahrain.
It is our determined aim to vaccinate every Islander aged over 50, i.e. just under half the population, with at least one dose, by the end of March and to have vaccinated all eligible Islanders by the start of September.
Jersey also compares well with the UK, Ireland and other European countries in terms of the number of active cases and our case positivity rate, despite the spike in cases we saw in late December.
Developing a Winter Strategy meant that we acted quickly and had a better test and trace programme in place, when the second wave appeared, ensuring that we could accurately understand the spread of the virus in our community and how to react.
Incoming passenger travel has remained low. And this will continue with the announcement earlier today that Easyjet has suspended its current spring schedule to Jersey and BA has scaled theirs back to weekend flights only.
Across November and December, 70% of travellers arriving in the Islander were residents returning home - including students and school boarders returning to Jersey. Only 2% of the total arrivals were business visitors. And all of these were required to isolate under our guidance.
I should also emphasise that during the ongoing UK lockdown, Islanders should not be visiting the UK for any reason other than essential travel – which includes health and compassionate reasons - as this would break the UK guidance upon arrival.
Local enforcement activity has also been critical to the good position we find ourselves in.
Since April, the States of Jersey Police have visited 1668 premises, given 1,888 words of advice and closed 11 premises. 884 checks alone have been carried out since the 1st December.
In total, there have been 14 convictions for COVID-19 related offences, with £25,300 issued in fines, and a 6-month suspended sentence given.
These are the extremes of the negative behaviour we have seen by a small number of people.
By contrast the vast majority of Islanders, including those arriving back through the ports, are working alongside law enforcement to help see our community safely through this period.
The Police, Environmental Health and the Monitoring and Enforcement Team will continue work with islanders, to police the virus and to constantly reinforce the sense of civic duty to keep people safe.
As a result of the extensive progress in vaccination, testing, travel, and enforcement we are in a position where we can prioritise students returning to school from next week, supported by a bespoke testing programme which includes weekly testing for teachers and pupils in years 11 to 13.
Putting Children First remains our TOP priority, and we need to give students the time to settle comfortably back into school, and to have the best possible protections in place for them.
This will include updated risk assessment taking place across nurseries schools and colleges, improved contact tracing arrangements for schools, and all arrangements for pupils kept under regular review.
This will be the first step in our gradual process to reconnect the economy and return Islanders to normal life.
But this must be done safely and step-by-step, giving the necessary time to assess the impact of relaxing measures on the spread of the virus.
It will not be achieved by rushing, by becoming complacent, or by taking actions which risk our safety, our high-risk islanders or our health service.
I want us to be in the strongest possible position as we take each step, so that Islanders and businesses can return to normality with confidence, and that we can look to a year where we can gather, work, live and celebrate as a community once again.
I’ll now ask the Minister for Health, Deputy Richard Renouf, to provide further detail about our vaccination programme and the process we will follow to ensure a gradual and safe return to normality.
We ARE in a strong position as we enter 2021.
This is because we took the right decisions, at the right time, and worked together as a community to protect one-another.
Some have alleged that our winter Strategy has not worked, but this is not borne out by the results we have seen to date.
Although case rates were high over December, Jersey has been consistently testing and tracing more than 3 times as many cases as the UK, and so is finding, proportionally, more positive cases.
Since publication of the Winter Strategy in November, which anticipated increasing cases, more than 20 different policy measures were introduced in rapid succession, including gatherings orders, mask wearing, testing programmes, increases in operational capacity, distancing and the circuit break arrangements.
The outcome has been clear: case rates are dropping and we have not had to resort to the type of lockdown measures currently being implemented in the UK and other jurisdictions.
Today, our adoption of the Winter Strategy has allowed us to set out the plan for the careful reduction of restrictive measures and the circuit break.
When making decisions about appropriate COVID measures, we are always looking for the right balance between safeguarding public health and enabling as much of normal life to continue as possible, bearing in mind the impact of restrictions on personal health, job security and our economy.
We understand that the measures that are continuing for the coming weeks will continue to adversely impact many businesses, especially those in the hospitality sector. And Ministers will continue to review the support available to adversely impacted sectors of the economy.
We also cannot ignore that there have been deaths as a result of COVID, and I extend my sincere sympathies – and those of all my Ministerial colleagues – to those families who have lost loved ones during this period.
Every loss to this virus is a tragedy and our constant reminder to Islanders of the real risk this disease poses.
I am also acutely aware of the pressure on Island students during this uncertain and worrying time.
I want to say ‘Thank You’ to all of them. You have been an inspiration across the Christmas and New Year, and have supported your families, while keeping the community safe.
We are now reopening schools, and there will be understandable stress for you and friends, and from the exam period you now face.
But the Education Department, Youth Service, and the entire community will do all we can to support you through this time.
I want to close by thanking all those listening, and our wider community.
It is you who have allowed us to reach this position. And I must ask you to continue with that effort a few weeks more.
Until the restrictions on household mixing are lifted, do not visit one-another’s homes, but instead meet outside – in a maximum group of 10.
I know this is difficult, especially in the cold weather we are experiencing, but essential to keep our highest risk Islanders safe.
Please keep up your good spirits and support each other through these last difficult days. And please also share with one another the hope for a better year ahead, one where our Island weathers the storm of the last year, and moves forward with pride, and purpose, as a community.
We really are in a better place than we were before Christmas, because of the actions we’ve taken as a Government and a community, and because of ongoing success of the vaccination programme.
We’re taking a cautious but pragmatic approach over the coming two weeks and as we move into the stages beyond, but it is an approach that I really believe will serve us well.
I share the hopes and wishes of all Islanders that we will all be together again this year, in comfort, in safety - able to enjoy the summer and the rest of 2021 as a community.