Jersey has officially entered lockdown.
The message from the government last night was “stay at home, save lives”, as a series of strict new curbs on island life - all backed by the full force of the law - were announced in a bid to slow the spread of covid-19 locally.
The new rules, which came into force at 08:00 this morning are as follows:
These apply to everyone except on-duty ‘essential workers’ and will last at least the next 30 days.
Video: The Chief Minister and Health Minister announcing the news.
“This does not, will not, and should not feel normal,” Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré said in a video statement published on social media at 20:00.
“This is about islanders protecting our most vulnerable from a virus without a vaccine.”
He later warned: “This is not advice: this is an instruction which will be backed by powers of enforcement.
“The police will be able to disperse gatherings and impose fines on those who flout the restrictions.”
He explained that the rationale behind the measures was to “slow the progress of this virus, to protect our island and its health service, and to save lives”.
Pictured: The Chief Minister warned that Police will be able to intervene if islanders do not follow the rules.
He added, however: “Most islanders will need to contract the virus at some stage over the next few months.
“That is how we build immunity. There is no other choice.”
Although the measure is currently in force throughout April, the Chief Minister hinted that it could go on months longer.
Today, the UK’s Deputy Medical Officer for Health said that it could be six months or more before normal life can gradually resume.
Senator Le Fondré said he recognised the ‘stay at home’ order “may trigger both emotional and practical issues for islanders”, but said that a support programme “is mobilising now” to help those struggling to adjust.
Pictured: The Chief Minister said support measures would be put in place for those who might suffer as a result of the new rules.
Despite the difficulties and disruptions the rules may entail, the Chief Minister’s overarching message was one of community: “We are all in this together.
“We must act together for our Island’s health and future.
“The next weeks and maybe months will be hard. None of us really know precisely what lies ahead, but I firmly believe in the strength of our Island Community spirit which will pull us through.”
The announcement came just hours after it was confirmed that a second islander diagnosed with covid-19 had died.
They were described as being in their 70s, with underlying conditions for which they were receiving long-term care from Jersey’s health service.
According to the latest statistics, 63 islanders are officially confirmed to have covid-19. Meanwhile, there have been 668 negative tests, while 101 people are still awaiting their results.
1/1 The latest update, as of Sunday 29 March at 4pm:— Government of Jersey (@GovJersey) March 29, 2020
668 confirmed negative
63 confirmed positive
2 people who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have sadly died. pic.twitter.com/eAZPvIDRMV
The Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, said last night that the rise in cases corresponds with “the curve we are likely to see while applying social distancing”, as predicted by the Deputy Medical Officer for Health, Dr Ivan Muscat.
However, he noted that there have been delays in receiving test results back, which had driven the decision to put the island into lockdown, based on advice from Dr Muscat.
"Receiving timely results is important, not only to maintain public confidence in our projections, but more importantly it enables our public health team to see what impact our health advice is having on flattening the infection curve," Deputy Renouf explained.
“When we don’t receive these results, we do not know what effect our measures are having… Without timely results showing us what social distancing is doing to the spread of the infection, there is a risk that the measures are not working as well as they could.
"And we will not risk lives.”
Pictured: There has been a significant delay in receiving test results back.
The decision to order all islanders to stay at home follows the UK and Guernsey, which was put on lockdown last week.
Guernsey’s authorities said compliance had generally been good within the first few days of the official quarantine, but islanders were warned that anyone who breaks the law during the covid-19 pandemic will face a harsher punishment than prior to the virus outbreak.
One shoplifter was warned the covid-19 context was an “aggravating” feature of his crime, as he was thrown behind bars for three months.
In an open letter, the island’s Chief Minister, Deputy Gavin St. Pier, acknowledged that the States had “stumbled on some of the detail” relating to essential business and “of what ‘locking down’ means”, as he released further guidance.
He noted that there will be “no hesitation in changing the rules and doing so very quickly” should public health advice change.
Deputy St. Pier added: “…All the test equipment needed is now in the pathology laboratory. It is being trialled and the team are being trained in its use and preparing to begin local testing in earnest. We will, of course, advise as soon as this is the case.”
Let's be clear: there is still some way to go. But, yes, of course we have had discussions with Jersey to see how our resources may be able to help. Everyone needs to stay focused though on the top priority which is getting our own programme up and running first. #walkbeforerun— Gavin St Pier (@gavinstpier) March 26, 2020
The news could be positive for Jersey, which has suffered long waits in receiving its test results back.
Last week, officially confirmed cases rocketed from 16 to 32 after a five-day backlog was finally received from a London lab.
In a press conference, Senator Le Fondré expressed hope that Guernsey’s new kit could be shared by Jersey to help speed up the process.
Jersey has ordered its own equipment, but the Chief Minister said that it could be “a few weeks” before the island is able to set up its own facility.
“As far as I’m concerned, both of the islands in this instance, whoever gets the kit, I’m sure we will work together in the best interests of all Channel Islanders,” he said.
“Certainly from our perspective, I’m sure we’d be willing to assist Guernsey if it was needed and… my understanding is that Guernsey would be willing to assist us again in all of our hours of need.”
Questioned over Twitter about sharing testing kit, Deputy St Pier tweeted on Thursday: “Let’s be clear: there is still some way to go. But, yes, of course we have had discussions with Jersey to see how our resources may be able to help.”
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