01 February 2021
Last Tuesday we announced that a cluster of COVID-19 cases in our Island’s supply chain had been detected, and we therefore took the immediate decision to delay the reopening of non-essential retail stores.
I am pleased to confirm that this cluster has been successfully contained and its spread mitigated. In a moment I will ask the Minister for Health and Social Services to speak in more detail about the management of the cluster and the steps our officers have taken to control it.
Following the successful containment of the cluster, I can confirm that non-essential retail will be able to re-open from this Wednesday, 3 February.
If our test positivity rate continues to be as low as it has these past weeks, with ongoing high levels of testing finding only small numbers of positive cases, we will proceed with the reintroduction of close contact services, including hairdressers and beauty salons, on Wednesday 10 February.
Our latest test results show that there are now 94 active cases in Jersey, and this number has followed a gradual downward trajectory.
However, numbers can change quickly, and cases will increase as we change our habits and mix more. That is a fact.
And that is why we are continuing the gradual, controlled reconnection of our circuit breaker measures. It is important we do this in a safe and measured way to avoid any sudden spike or uncontrolled rise in cases.
The circuit breaker, which restricts gatherings and activities, provides downward pressure on our numbers, effectively flattening the curve. Releasing these restrictions and allowing people to gather more often provides upward pressure.
This is the balancing act we are all trying to achieve. Too many restrictions and the mental and physical health effects of lockdown become worse than the effects of COVID itself, too few restrictions and too many cases in the community lead to increased hospitalisations and puts vulnerable Islanders at risk.
We have the opportunity, through our current position, to ensure that new case numbers remain low, and the virus is controlled, but we can only do so with the continued support and cooperation of Islanders.
By following the public health guidance, continuing to avoid household mixing and avoiding complacency, we can all do our part to supress the virus here in Jersey and safely reconnect.
If we take matters into our own hands, and act irresponsibly in a way that the medics are not expecting, then we will need to readjust our plans, and we could effectively delay the continued easing of restrictions.
There will be some in our community who, through physical need or abject loneliness, need support. We are seeking to balance a level of flexibility and support these Islanders whose mental wellbeing is genuinely suffering.
But flexibility to the rules on indoor gatherings only applies to those who need physical or emotional care. If you don’t need to go into someone else’s house, don’t.
Remember it is safer to meet outside where the risk of transmission is reduced. And even though it is easy to forget, please remember to keep your 2 metres physical distancing.
A bright Spring is within sight – we just need to get through the next few weeks and give the vaccination programme more time to get our most vulnerable inoculated.
Please give the programme time – every dinner party hosted and every indoor gathering attended all increase the chances of our most vulnerable catching COVID-19.
The programme is going well to date. From today, those aged 70 and over, as well as high risk Islanders, can book their appointment at gov.je/vaccination or call the Coronavirus helpline to book their appointments.
A significant proportion of those over 80 have now received their first dose of the vaccine and those over 75 began their appointments last week.
Our vaccination team is operating at capacity based on the vaccine quantities we are receiving from the UK, and I want to pay tribute to everyone in the team for their important work inoculating the most vulnerable of Islanders.
I’d now like to hand over to the Minister for Health and Social Services.
Thank you, Richard.
Before we close to take questions, I want to very briefly touch on the situation in our sister Island of Guernsey.
On Friday, I spoke once again with Chief Minister, Deputy Ferbrache, and have extended our Island’s best wishes to him and his team. Like us, Guernsey has leading experts working on their response and I know that the Government there are confident that they will be able to contain the current spike in cases. We wish them the absolute best in doing this.
I want to urge Jersey residents to not give in to complacency at our improving situation. We cannot afford to jeopardise the good progress we have made together.
We all have a duty in the coming weeks as some restrictions, are safely lifted, to continue acting responsibly and follow the public health guidance.
I’ll now take questions from the media.