Politicians have thrown out an attempt to make Jersey follow an elimination strategy, instead giving their backing to the government's 'delay, contain, shield' response to the virus crisis.
Deputy Jess Perchard’s proposals told the Government to draft a strategy to work towards achieving zero cases of the virus locally by early June.
But the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, put forward an amendment to change the wording of the proposition into requesting the development of an “updated ‘Covid-19 strategy’, adapting the ‘delay, contain, shield’ policy and the ‘safe exit framework’ to ensure the continued control and suppression of the virus in a safe and sustainable way that protects islanders by causing the least overall harm”.
Deputy @JessePerchard is now asking the Chief Minister, @John_Le_Fondre to develop and implement a new ‘COVID-19 elimination strategy’, including a detailed plan of action with a focus on eliminating the virus in Jersey. (1/4)— States Assembly (@StatesAssembly) May 19, 2020
READ THE PROPOSAL HERE: https://t.co/eT7LGPxIJ2
In a report accompanying his amendment, the Chief Minister explained it had been lodged over concerns the term ‘elimination’ could be misleading, and may be interpreted “to require the Government to pursue complete elimination of covid-19 irrespective of the collateral harm of measures required to do so”.
Deputy Perchard said she was disappointed with the amendment as it changed the meaning of her proposition, negating the debate.
Presenting her proposals to the States Assembly, she praised the efforts of government, saying elimination wouldn't have been possible had Jersey not been "so successful in flattening the curve”.
Pictured: Deputy Perchard's proposition on the left, and as amended by the Chief Minister on the right.
She said the main goal of an elimination strategy was to prevent any new infections, shut down new cases as soon as possible and pursue a zero-infection goal.
Despite suggestions from some Members, Deputy Perchard repeated several times throughout the debate that she was not advocating for “a severe period of lockdown”, arguing that it would be up to the Government to decide what form their elimination strategy would take.
Deputy Perchard added that her proposition followed discussions with several GPs and medical professionals, who had shared “grave concerns” over the Government’s current strategy and suggested elimination was instead the way forward.
But the arguments did not sway a majority of States Members, with the Chief Minister’s amendments eventually adopted with a wide majority of 36 votes in favour and six against.
Other amendments, including Deputy Kirsten Morel’s proposals to implement specific testing regimes at the island's ports, and Deputy Kevin Pamplin’s push to include mental health services provision and enhancement, were also adopted.
While a majority of States Members disagreed with the concept of elimination, they welcomed the opportunity to discuss the government's strategy openly presented by Deputy Perchard's debate.
Several suggested that some islanders do not have full confidence in the government’s strategy, going on to encourage Ministers to share more information with the public and backbenchers.
Part of Deputy Perchard's proposal drew a comparison to New Zealand, which is pursuing elimination. Some States Members said this was unhelpful, with Deputy Trevor Pointon arguing that, while New Zealand can “seal the economy and manage the virus”, Jersey is dependent on the outside world.
Pictured: Several States members said there was no need to depart from the advice of medical experts, who do not support an elimination strategy.
Other members, such as St. Lawrence Constable, Deirdre Mezbourian, who sits on the Emergencies Council as representative for the Comité des Connétables, said there was no reason to depart from the guidance of “expert medical advice” which has informed decisions so far.
The Constable added that supporting Deputy Perchard’s proposition would be “taking a giant step backward in our efforts to move forward”.
The Constable of St Martin, Karen Shenton-Stone, said we “cannot and should not be persuaded by the most fearful in our society”, adding she was happy “to follow the advice of those who have steered us so far”.
The Deputy of St Martin, Steve Luce has asked the Chief Minister to clarify his current policy in his responses, as he has not seen a clear written plan of what route is being pursued. He added he won't be supporting The Chief Minister's amendment.— States Assembly (@StatesAssembly) May 20, 2020
The Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, said it would be the “worst thing” to take a different path after containing the virus successfully and go against the advice of medical professionals.
He said the current strategy had worked so well so far that the Ethical Framework drawn up just a month ago to help doctors decide who should get critical care in the event health services became saturated would not be needed.
Deputy Steve Luce shared support for the proposals, rather than the amendment, noting Deputy Perchard had written her policy down while he hadn’t seen one from the Chief Minister so far - something he said “didn’t fill him with confidence”.
John Le Maistre, the Constable of Grouville, also supported Deputy Perchard’s proposals, saying that questions remained around the government’s current strategy.
Deputy @JessPerchard’s amended proposal for an Elimination Strategy was ADOPTED— States Assembly (@StatesAssembly) May 20, 2020
40 FOR vs 2 AGAINST
The amended version of the proposition, backing the government's 'delay, contain, shield' approach, was eventually adopted as amended with 40 votes in favour and two against.
Despite the Chief Minister's amendment having effectively "killed" her original elimination proposal, Deputy Perchard noted in her concluding speech minutes before the vote that the Assembly now had clarity on the direction taken by the Government.
She also explained she had opted to put her idea to a vote rather than have an in-committee debate - an open discussion, without a binding vote - because islanders needed the reassurance that the Government’s strategy is “endorsed by the majority of the Assembly”.
Pictured: Deputy Jess Perchard said she was glad to have brought the vote, as it gave the opportunity to show whether the government's approach had political backing.
As a result of the vote, Ministers will have to release a published version of their strategy, which Deputy Perchard said hoped would prove that their approach is guided by medical advice.
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