21 January 2021
On the seventh of January, we announced our plans for the gradual reconnection of our Island’s economy and community, through the controlled easing of the COVID-19 restrictive measures which are currently in place – but always subject to our assessment of the numbers.
Following meetings of STAC and the Competent Authorities Ministers over the last few days, we can now set out the next steps in our reconnection process.
On the basis of the case numbers that we are currently seeing, non-essential retail will be able to reopen from Wednesday the 27th of January.
This is two days later than we had initially indicated, however, this short delay allows us to monitor the impact of the reopening of schools for a full two weeks; enabling our medical experts to accurately track the impact on our positive case rate, and to react accordingly, if necessary.
Close contact services – which includes hairdressers, barbers and other beauty services – will be permitted to open one week later, on Wednesday the 3rd of February.
This phased approach will prevent a sudden increase in social contact and provides a constant reminder that we must exercise caution to prevent the continued spread of the virus.
It is critical that we do not rush our reopening in a desire to return to normal too quickly.
We do not want to see the number of cases significantly rise once again, leading to a need to reintroduce restrictive measures or halt our reconnection process.
When we agreed the process for reconnecting, we set a series of metrics which would guide the timing of our progress through the stages.
STAC have appraised our present situation against these measures and recommended to Ministers that it is proportionate to reopen non-essential retail next week.
They are encouraged by the decline in the number of new cases spread across every 7 days - which has declined significantly and also by our 7-day positivity rate, which has also declined and is now below 2% and we are seeing low daily positivity rates amongst the elderly population.
As of today, the number of active cases is 187 and we have conducted over a quarter of a million PCR tests.
Household mixing over Christmas has generated less than 20 cases so far but there is still time for further cases to come to light.
Taking these factors into consideration, Ministers have agreed to follow the advice of STAC and to safely reopen non-essential retail.
But I want to be clear that the relaxation of our circuit breaker measures is contingent on the metrics continuing to point in a positive direction.
If cases suddenly and dramatically rise over the coming days, we can still amend the decision before Wednesday, if that is in the best interests of our Island’s overall health.
When we announced our reconnection timeline, we also said that we would allow a two-week gap between reconnection measures.
On the advice of STAC we have extended this to three weeks. This will allow us to accurately chart the impact of each of our reconnection measures.
It also allows additional time to deliver our critical vaccination programme. For each week that passes, up to 7,500 islanders will be vaccinated and protected from the significant impact this virus can have.
This extended gap between measures will also allow us to develop our COVID strategy following Easter, based on a close monitoring of local and regional case numbers – and on the progress of the vaccination programme.
Before I hand over to the Minister for Health, I want again to thank all Islanders, all of you, for your continued compliance with the restrictions. It is thanks to your support and cooperation that we now find ourselves in the good position we are in.
Minister for Health and Social Services
The Chief Minister summing up.
Thank you, Richard and Lyndon.
I know it can sometimes seem like every headline is invariably linked to COVID. Indeed, by my count this is the 30th press conference I have given on the subject since March of last year.
But I want to take a moment, to look ahead.
As you would expect, we have begun to plan for what comes next and how we will come out of the difficult times we have been experiencing.
As I have said before, we can see the light at the end of a very long journey. We are not there yet, but it is getting closer.
And that is also why I want to take a moment to outline some of the other important initiatives and projects which we have been working on.
For example, last week, we announced plans for a loop bus in St Helier which we hope to trial this summer. This sustainable transport scheme will increase the mobility of St Helier residents and reduce the need for cars in town.
This week, we have briefed States Members on our proposed access route to the New Hospital. The Overdale site was agreed before Christmas and this will provide our Island with a superb healthcare campus which meets the demands of the Jersey Care Model and will provide for the needs of Islanders for years to come.
In the recently approved Government Plan, we have outlined an ambitious education reform programme and a school catch-up initiative to ensure that the disruption to our children’s education due to COVID-19 does not become a permanent detriment.
Over the next few months, we will be making further announcements on the progress we have made delivering on our commitments to Islanders advancing the projects in the Government Plan.
One thing I have learnt as a politician over the last fifteen years is that we as the public do not always appreciate or understand all of the services and functions that Government provides on this Island and that is one thing I want to improve our mutual understanding of.
As a result of COVID, we have also tried different methods with engaging with you, the public, in different ways.
In the next few weeks, I also hope to be hosting with other Ministers, the first of a new form of public engagements – what you might call a virtual parish hall to allow you to ask questions to us, directly and to give your thoughts for the future of our Island.
It is all too easy to sometimes become obsessed with the immediate problems we are facing – but it is important that we also remember to lift our heads and deliver on the long-term issues facing us and our Island.
The new Hospital is a key example of such projects. I was struck today during a presentation to colleagues in the States Assembly by the words of one of our clinical leads. He was outlining its importance in light of our experience dealing with COVID-19. He described the new hospital as “a beacon of hope for new medicine on the hill overlooking the town."
That is such an important vision, and one we cannot afford to lose sight of. The new hospital is an investment into the future of healthcare in Jersey and the longer we delay the dimmer that beacon shines.
Thank you very much for listening and we’ll now take questions from the media.
Chief Minister Summing Up
As we close today, I would like to thank the members of the media for their questions and to all those of you who have tuned in his evening.
I also want to thank all Islanders for continuing to follow the public health guidance.
It is because of your efforts in recent weeks to stay safe and slow the spread of COVID-19 that we can now look to safely reconnect our non-essential retail services.
I will close by reflecting on some of the words of STAC in their advice to Ministers, which I believe captures the essence of the situation we are in.
“We need to learn the lessons of our own experience and those of our neighbours both in the UK and mainland Europe.
Success is not going to come from doing a few big things well, it will come from considering the detail and making sure we do all the small things to the best of our ability - washing our hands, maintaining our distance, avoiding crowding indoors, reducing household mixing, wearing our masks and not allowing ourselves to become complacent."
With that advice in mind, please remember that while the situation is looking positive, we must remain vigilant, and we must continue to protect one-another in every way we can.
With your continued support, we will be able to keep positive cases low and the virus contained.
Please stay safe and let’s continue to suppress the virus, together.