15 December 2021
The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, has delivered the following statement to the States Assembly:
Sir, last night the Competent Authority Ministers (CAM) met to discuss the potential emerging risks posed to the Island from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
No case of Omicron has yet been found in Jersey, but health officials believe it is likely that the variant is present in the Island, and we are continuing with our PCR test sequencing and surveillance to ensure it can be identified rapidly.
The risk to our community
We need to act proportionately to protect our community in the face of rapidly changing scientific knowledge about the level of risk that Omicron poses to our Island.
What is clear is that Omicron is more transmissible than other strains, and cases are currently doubling every two to three days in the UK. If this rate were to be replicated in Jersey, we would reach an infection peak that could be much higher than experienced last winter.
We want to ensure that all Islanders can enjoy the Christmas period safely, and we must safeguard the resilience of our healthcare services as there are already other winter pressures on staffing in in the General Hospital and other care settings.
We are asking Islanders to continue taking sensible, precautionary, steps to protect themselves, and each other, over the coming festive period.
Delivering more boosters, more quickly
The most effective measure Islanders can take to reduce the risk of catching Omicron is to get their third vaccination. From today, all Islanders aged 18 and over will be able to book their COVID-19 booster dose, and we aim to achieve an 80% booster vaccination uptake by mid-January 2022.
Sir, we know that vaccine immunity wanes over time and the latest evidence shows that you must have a booster dose to be protected against Omicron. The current estimates are that the booster increases vaccine efficacy against Omicron infection to between 70% and 75%.
Vaccination is our best defence against the virus, and we need to get as many people vaccinated as possible. I urge any Islander aged 18 and over to come forward, as soon as possible, to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
From today, Islanders are able to access their COVID Status Certification QR codes to show evidence of a booster dose. Islanders who are already vaccinated with a booster will have started to receive paper certificates demonstrating evidence of their third dose, and from later today, QR codes will be available for booster doses by calling the Coronavirus helpline. Officers are working on the re-launch of the Digital COVID Status Certification portal, and an update will be provided soon.
From Tuesday 4 January, the definition of Fully Vaccinated under Jersey's Safer Travel Policy will also be updated. From this date, passengers will be required to have received the full schedule of doses available to them to meet the definition of Fully Vaccinated. This means passengers aged 18 and over will need to have received two initial doses plus a third booster dose two weeks before they travel. Passengers aged 12 to 18 will need to have received two doses of the vaccine two weeks before they travel.
From the same date, passengers will no longer be able to use evidence of previous COVID infection to avoid the requirement to be tested on arrival in Jersey.
Passengers who do not meet the Fully Vaccinated status will need to take a free PCR test on arrival and isolate until they receive a negative test result. The turnaround time of PCR tests results is currently around 8 hours.
Passengers who have travelled outside the Common Travel Area in the 10 days before arriving in Jersey, regardless of vaccination status, will need to be tested on arrival and then isolate until a negative result, or they can provide evidence of a negative pre-departure test.
Taking individual action to slow transmission
Sir, we continue to strongly encourage Islanders to use masks or other protective face coverings when in indoor public places, especially in shops or when attending events over the Christmas period.
From Tuesday 4 January 2022, masks will be mandatory in indoor public spaces. We recognise that there will be activities where masks cannot be worn, including exercising, eating, drinking, singing and acts of worship, and we will provide detailed guidance before that date.
We also recommend that Islanders and businesses take up the option to work from home, as part of keeping staff safe, from Tuesday 4 January. We recognise that there are circumstances where work in offices or other workplaces can continue safely, and where that can be achieved, we encourage physical distancing, testing, masks and good ventilation to be used wherever practicable.
These are temporary measures which aim to reduce the spread of transmission, allowing people to stay well to maximise booster uptake. The measures will remain under continual review, before and during implementation, and will be reassessed by mid-January.
We are also asking the hospitality sector to continue with strict monitoring of their customers, collecting their contact details and enabling easy contact-tracing for the authorities. We don’t want to stop people from enjoying themselves, but this is a sensible precaution that will help us to control any spread of Omicron when it does reach our shores. So, we must ask the sector to apply a renewed effort, particularly over the festive period, as it is better to act now to reduce the impact later.
Additional business support measures for the industries most severely affected by these measures are being developed, and the Deputy Chief Minister, Senator Lyndon Farnham, will make an announcement on these as soon as possible.
Islanders should also continue to take advantage of Lateral Flow Testing. More than 3500 new registrations have been received across the home, school and workplace LFT programmes in the last week, which is fantastic. In total, approximately 50,000 registrations have been received for these programmes. Please can I directly ask Islanders to use these tests before leaving home when attending a public event or Christmas party.
Protecting our health and care services
Our healthcare services remain in a resilient position, and we are able to treat those who present in hospital with, or because of, COVID.
We are acutely aware of the pressures on care and nursing homes, as well as home care services, and CAM have instructed officers to work closely with this sector to ensure that they have the resources and processes to support residents who are returning to their care after a stay in hospital.
By ensuring they can return home safely, we will maintain capacity in the hospital for new admissions. We will also work with this sector to explore all options for expanding their capacity in order to support patients leaving hospital and requiring additional care.
I would like to repeat my thanks to all Islanders for their continued diligence and cooperation.
By taking these steps we can continue to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in Jersey, while allowing Islanders the freedom to celebrate without disproportionate restrictions on their lives.
As I have said, Sir, we will keep all these measures under constant review, to ensure they are proportionate to the potential risks we face as a community, and we will step them up or step them down as appropriate.
Sir, If I can address Islanders directly:
Please continue to act responsibly, and with kindness, to ensure that your family, friends and colleagues can all enjoy this Christmas safely.