05 March 2021
Two weeks ago, I updated Islanders on our ongoing reconnection plans. They included how we are prioritising physical and mental health, our children’s’ education, our livelihoods, and our strong economy.
Since then, we have seen under-18s return to outdoor sport, restaurants and hotels reopen, and singing in groups restart.
Islanders are beginning to feel the rewards of their determination and adherence to public health guidance.
Now we can move forward with that reconnection.
Public health officials and STAC have spent the last two weeks creating proposals for a more detailed reconnection plan, based on our updated vaccination and active cases figures.
That plan has been designed to provide a cautious return to normality. That is because it is designed to be a ONE-WAY ROUTE to greater freedoms.
We DO NOT want to restrict public activities again. We DO NOT want to restrict your freedoms again.
So, we must have enough time between each stage of reconnection to make sure that it is safe and appropriate to move forward.
The threat from COVID-19, despite our world leading vaccination programme, has not gone away.
Younger and unvaccinated people can still catch it, they can still suffer from its symptoms, and they can still develop conditions currently being explored under the name of ‘Long-COVID’.
We must take this seriously.
But Islanders should congratulate themselves on getting us to such a good position and protecting our most vulnerable from the physical harms of the virus.
Now is the right time to lay out our plan for greater freedoms.
We will continue to prioritise activities that are either low risk in their nature or can be made lower risk through mitigations and guidance.
We will then move on to reconnect activities that bring the greatest wellbeing and economic benefit.
This means our plan will see the return of gyms, indoor gatherings, and children’s soft play before Easter.
Just to be clear, that means from Monday the 15th March, limited household mixing can begin.
The plan will need to be flexible as we are relying on five objectives to guide us through the reconnection.
Firstly - we must keep cases low enough to preserve our ability to test, trace and track cases and clusters before they become outbreaks;
Second - any outbreak must be containable to prevent a surge of infection that would result in a third wave;
Thirdly - our vaccine supply must remain as good as, or better than, it currently is, with evidence continuing to show that vaccines reduce hospitalisations and deaths.
Next – we would want to see that there are no variants or mutations of COVID-19 presenting a risk to our vaccination programme;
And lastly - our ‘balance of harms’ approach must be maintained, with the right reconnections happening at the right time and in the right order. By doing so we can balance the risks from COVID against the societal, educational, and economic harms caused by maintaining restrictions.
I want to close by asking you all to picture a typical summer day in Jersey. The sort of summer that we used to have, without the restrictions we have seen over the last year.
This is the type of summer that we could have.
One where we know our vulnerable friends and family are protected by a vaccination regime that has rolled out successfully across our community.
And one where COVID is not the topic of every newspaper, radio or TV show.
You have the power to make that summer happen.
But it can ONLY happen with your cooperation and absolute commitment to the reconnection plan we have set out.
Relying on wishful thinking, or rushing through the stages we have outlined, will put that summer in jeopardy.
I’d like to reiterate that Stage 4 reconnection does not start until 15th of March and it's important we continue our adherence to the current guidance until that point.
The finish line IS IN SIGHT. But we cannot disregard the mitigations and public health guidance in place, or make the mistake of sprinting towards the end. We all need to cross that finish line, together, in a way that ensures that we no longer need restrictive measures. Permanently.
Thank you for all you’ve done so far, and for all you continue to do, as an island, to combat COVID and reconnect our community.
I’ll now ask the media for their questions.
As we close today, I would like to thank Members of the media for your questions and to thank all of you for watching.
The roadmap we have set out this evening charts a clear course of reconnection for our Island, but it is dependent on us.
Islanders have already shown great resilience and responsibility over the last 12 months, I want to urge you all to continue following the guidance, to avoid complacency and to not take unnecessary risks.
We are close to securing the summer that we all want.
Thank you all for your efforts so far, and let me wish you all a safe and pleasant weekend.