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Identity of the 4 person Covid-19 cluster venue (FOI)

Identity of the 4 person Covid-19 cluster venue (FOI)

Produced by the Freedom of Information office
Authored by Government of Jersey and published on 06 November 2020.
Prepared internally, no external costs.

Original Request

I am requesting the name of the venue where a number of Covid-19 cases were identified from incoming passengers on 17 and 18 September. I believe that this is in the public interest as people might have entered this venue and not been traced or might have been in close proximity of the venue.

I am not requesting any personal data of individuals, only the name of the venue, which quite rightly allowed public access under the regulations at the time.

Original Response

This incident occurred several weeks ago and is now beyond the infection period for Covid-19.

We track and trace at all premises to which a positive case has visited. To identify a venue name would not be appropriate as it may be prejudicial to their commercial interest and is therefore exempt under Article 33 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011. Article 33 has therefore been applied to this request.

Article applied:

Article 33 - Commercial interests

Information is qualified exempt information if –

(a) it constitutes a trade secret; or

(b) its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of a person (including the scheduled public authority holding the information).

Prejudice / public interest test

Article 33 (b) allows an authority to refuse a request for information where its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of a person (including the scheduled public authority holding the information).

Whilst we accept that the public may have an interest in knowing the identity of the relevant venues, we believe that the disclosure of this information could be prejudicial to the commercial interests of the business concerned.

Request for Internal Review

I wish to further pursue your comments with regard to Freedom of Information, specifically the government not reporting the name of the hospitality venue where a cluster of covid-19 positive cases was reported.

I have concerns about transparency and any potential conflicts of interest that are relevant at this time.

To confirm. My request was for the name of the venue reported as having a cluster of covid-19 cases

Please note the following:

Irrelevant content of your reply

Your first comment stating that "The incident occurred several weeks ago and is now beyond the infection period for Covid-19" is completely irrelevant.

That comment is not related to my query. You have not given any reason for your commencing your email with such a statement. It is subjective.

Commercial Interests

There is no consistency in your comments regarding Commercial Interests.

Jersey Government regularly reports of positive cases arriving by sea, by which, the only company available for passenger transport is Condor. Condor are a commercial entity and you have therefore prejudiced their commercial activities by reporting this. I fully support this openness of reporting, as it is in the public interest, as I believe is the reporting of hospitality venues that have experienced clusters of Covid-19 infections.

Government have reported the names of "private" fee-paying schools such as, St Michel's where there are known cases and De La Salle where, as of writing, there are no known cases. These are commercial entities that could be impacted through reporting. Again, I support this, as it is in the public interest, as is the reporting of the names of hospitality venues.

There is no consistency in your comment or your reference to Article 33 Commercial Interests.

Therefore, can you advise me of what further action I can peruse to find this information. Does it require legal representation? If yes, could you let me know as soon as possible.

As a further follow up on my request, I note that the Powerhouse, a commercial enterprise was named as having Covid-19 positive cases associated to it yesterday, 11 November and further cases have been announced at JCG.

Response to Internal review

This review has been conducted in accordance with the internal review procedure and has been undertaken by a senior member of staff who had no dealings with the original response.

In summary, the Government of Jersey (GoJ) was asked to provide the name of a venue where Covid-19 cases were identified. GoJ declined to provide the venue name, on the basis that to do so may be prejudicial to the venue’s commercial interest (Article 33 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011). The applicant requesting the information sent two emails, challenging the answer provided on two separate grounds:

1. Irrelevant content of the reply

Whilst it is correct that the opening sentence of the answer provided could be considered as not directly relevant to the information requested, the opening sentence was not subjective; it was factual as the incident did occur several weeks before the response was drafted.

2. Lack of consistency in relation to reference to Commercial Interests / Article 33 exemption

Refusal to release the name of the venue on the basis of commercial interest / provisions of the Article 33 exemption is consistent with GoJ policy. With reference to the examples raised by the individual challenging the decision not to release the information:

  • GoJ does report the number of positive cases arriving by sea. This data includes all arrivals by sea including on private vessels and all vessels operated by all commercial operators. The data does not, therefore, prejudice the commercial activities of Condor ferries as the data is not restricted to Condor ferries

  • GoJ has published the names of fee-paying schools but has done so with the consent those schools (and where the information has already been released in social media via a third party). Where a fee-paying school has not given permission to release their name, GoJ has not done so.

  • GoJ did not release the name of Powerhouse into the public domain.

The reviewer has determined that the use of Article 33 of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 was correctly applied to the original response and was consistent with GOJ policy.

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