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40,000 frontline workers to undergo regular covid testing

40,000 frontline workers to undergo regular covid testing

Monday 02 November 2020

40,000 frontline workers to undergo regular covid testing


Nearly 40,000 islanders working in close contact with customers will be regularly tested for covid and there'll be more checks on those arriving on the island as part of a covid crackdown this winter to avoid a "last resort" lockdown.

Both measures are key tenets of the Government's Covid-19 Winter Strategy released today.

It will be conducted on a four to eight-week cycle on around 60% of the population to help identify any on-island virus cases that have not been identified through arrivals testing.

The strategy update includes eight key actions which aim to avoid future island-wide, restrictive measures.

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Pictured: “Locking down normal life, the economy and travel will be the last resort of the Government."

“Locking down normal life, the economy and travel will be the last resort of the Government,” the document states.

"Our plans are to contain the virus by targeting our responses firmly and quickly where we see specific threats. A major increase in on-island workforce testing over winter will identify any covid-19 being transmitted where symptoms are mild or absent.”

One of the key aspects of the strategy is to ramp up on-island testing. As part of this, hospital staff, community health and care home staff, primary care and ambulance, about 4,000, will be tested every four weeks, with at least 75% of workers tested in each cycle. 

In addition, 3,000 people working in close contact with vulnerable people such as GPs and home carers will be tested every six weeks.

Finally, the Government will be testing almost 40,000 people, about 60% of Jersey’s workforce, in all other occupations with close customer contact. 

Each occupation will be “test sampled” and testing scaled up if any cases are identified within a relevant group.

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Pictured: 2,000 tests could be processed daily on island in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, it is hoped that the on-island testing capacity will go up to 2,000 tests a day in the coming weeks. Overall, it is expected that the island's testing capacity will stand at 140,000 tests a month.

“Over the summer months, we prioritised testing at our borders due to the large number of people arriving from various jurisdictions, some with high cases of covid-19," the Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, said.

“This enhanced testing programme will include a particular focus on testing islanders, whose public facing jobs put them at higher risk of infection and those who are more likely to transmit the virus onto those who are high risk. 

“Groups of workers will be offered different frequencies of testing according to the perceived level of risk, and we will remain flexible in the potential need to raise the priority for particular occupations."

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Pictured: Those travelling to the island will be subject to closer monitoring during the winter.

Meanwhile, the Government will also increase the monitoring of those arriving into the island from amber and red areas to ensure they are isolating as required. 

Alex Khaldi, the Interim Director of Public Health Policy, explained that this was due to concerns that, with more regions being classified as amber and red, some people might not comply with the more restrictive isolation requirements 

“We expect most people to [undergo a 14-day isolation] but there will be some people who do not want to do it,” he said. 

As a result the monitoring capability has already been increased while the contact tracing team now consists of 55 staff based in three teams working from separate locations. Mr Khaldi said that capacity will be further increased should it be needed.

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Pictured: The Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat. 

“Colder weather will increase the risk of on-Island transmission and we need to proactively identify cases of unknown source within the community, to avoid forward transmission,” Deputy Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat, who is leading Jersey's approach to the pandemic, said. 

“Apart from testing in relation to symptoms, admissions to hospital and care homes we will therefore significantly enhance non-travel related testing to seek out cases and contain spread before clusters and localised outbreaks form. 

“A targeted and effective response to cases is necessary to avoid disproportionate harm to Islanders health as a result of blanket restrictions, and this needs to be supplemented by population wide adherence to all the relevant public health guidelines.

“We also continue to work on the delivery plans for a covid-19 vaccine although there is not yet a guaranteed delivery date.”

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