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Information and public services for the Island of Jersey

L'înformâtion et les sèrvices publyis pouor I'Île dé Jèrri

Chief Minister's Speech on COVID-19 De Escalation

28 January 2022

Good afternoon,

I am joined today by the Deputy Chief Minister, Senator Lyndon Farnham, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, and the Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat.

Ministers met last night to discuss the latest advice from STAC and public health and have agreed a phased approach to the de-escalation of our current COVID measures.

These reflect the progress we have made as an Island, the high vaccination coverage we benefit from and the lessened severity of the Omicron variant.

I will be asking my colleagues to outline the changes shortly but first, I wanted to briefly reflect on the last two years responding to the COVID pandemic.

It has been twenty-two months, two weeks and four days since we reported our first case of COVID-19 in Jersey. In the intervening time we have worked with Islanders to safeguard our collective public health, we have worked with businesses to protect jobs and livelihoods and we have worked with local charities to support vulnerable Islanders.

The combined effect of rising vaccination coverage and diminished severity of the Omicron Variant has meant that our fatality rate has fallen from more than one in one hundred, in January 2021, to fewer than one in one thousand now in January 2022.

Together we have delivered more than 200,000 vaccine doses, conducted close to one million PCR tests and mobilised an unprecedented amount of capital in support of local jobs and businesses.

The strong position we now find ourselves in is very much the result of you. I want to particularly thank every Islander who has been vaccinated. 90% of Islanders over 18 have had at least one dose and crucially 89% of over 50s have now had three doses, and this ensures that those who are vulnerable in our community are as protected as possible.

I want to remind Islanders that anyone over the age of sixteen is eligible for a booster jab 12 weeks after their second dose, and it couldn't be easier as you are able to walk into the Vaccination Centre without a booked appointment to get your first, second or booster dose. Please check for the opening hours.

It is thanks to your efforts that we can now announce the relaxation of both our mask legislation and working from home guidance, and that we can stand down the Safer Travel Policy in early February.

We are also ceasing mandatory isolation at the end of March, which will be replaced by strong guidance, and I will ask the Health Minister to go into more detail on this shortly.

These changes are only possible thanks to the progress we have seen, and they are in line with the medical advice we have received.

We must not be complacent, the pandemic is not over, but we are looking at a new stage in our response, one where fixed and enforceable measures can be phased out and where we can instead rely on the protection afforded by the vaccine, the enhanced precautions which are now second nature to us, and the common sense of Islanders.

I'll now hand over to the Deputy Chief Minister, who will explain the standing down of our Safer Travel Policy and the relaxation of working from home guidance.

I hope the relaxations in our COVID measures announced today will be welcome news to Islanders, we cannot be complacent, but we are in a good place.

More than any other single measure, vaccination has been key in getting us to this point. We can only keep moving towards normality because of the protection afforded by vaccination.

If you, or someone you know, hasn't been vaccinated, please know that there is still time. Getting vaccinated is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself, and your loved ones safe.

Aside from having all the vaccine doses you are eligible for, there are practical everyday steps we are all familiar with that can help keep us safe.

We would strongly encourage the regular use of LFTs. Whether you're hosting a party, visiting an elderly relative or getting back to the office, make sure you use one of our free Lateral Flow Testing kits to give you, and those around you, peace of mind.

The relaxation of measures we have announced today represents a significant step to normality. We must remain vigilant, and we cannot become complacent, but we can begin to look beyond the pandemic as we learn to live with COVID.

Hopefully this will be one of our last press conference solely dedicated to COVID.

When I was first elected by the Assembly as Chief Minister in June 2018, COVID was not even a cloud on the horizon. We came in to achieve change and with a long-term perspective to set foundations upon which to build an organisation that was fit for purpose for the 21st century and could fulfil the expectations of Islanders.

Let's be clear, COVID has dominated our time and has caused delays in other pieces of work, but we have also had some successes.

So today, I want to thank my fellow Ministers and all the dedicated officers who have worked so tirelessly over the last two years as we have responded to the threat of COVID.

I also want to express my gratitude to those who have been working equally hard on the everyday projects which fall outside our pandemic response. These staff, too, have had to deal with the impact of COVID and have worked diligently despite attention often being diverted to each twist and turn of the pandemic.

I want to make sure that they receive the recognition they deserve - which is why, from Monday, we will be beginning a six-week campaign to highlight the important achievements across Government over the last four years, emphasising some of those projects which have not received the attention they deserve because of the pandemic, and I hope you will it informative.

Without further ado, thank you for listening and we will now take questions from the media.

As we conclude our press conference today, I want to thank the members of the media for their questions and also all of you for watching.

This is not the end of the pandemic, but it does mark the end of our emergency period.

As we announce these relaxations today, we must all be vigilant and continue to act responsibly. Whether its taking a lateral flow before gathering with friends, choosing to go for a walk outside instead of gathering inside, or above all getting vaccinated, we can all take practical steps to reduce our risk, to keep each other safe and to help our community.

Thank you very much for listening and I wish you all a safe and pleasant weekend.

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