Calls are intensifying for a plan to get Jersey back in business after new data showed the island's covid-19 infection curve appearing to be flattened.
A graph released by Statistics Jersey on Friday showed a significant drop in the number of daily new virus cases after the ‘stay at home’ restrictions began.
Pictured: The curve released by Statistics Jersey.
When Express asked for the rationale behind the decision, Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf said: “It has been necessary to extend it because islanders have been doing well, but we still need to keep those restrictions on to delay the spread of the virus and contain the cases that we have and to shield the vulnerable in our community.”
With the peak of cases estimated to hit in May, the Chief Minister later explained that the government was concerned that releasing from lockdown too early would “undo all the good work that has been happening”.
However, he pledged that an ‘exit strategy’ was on its way and due to be published by the end of the month.
Video: The Chief Minister pledged that an exit strategy would be shared by the end of the month during a press conference last week.
While he wouldn’t be drawn on any details “at this stage”, he suggested that it would involve a phased approach and that the early part of the release plan could see children go back to school in smaller groups, rather than everyone returning “back on day one”.
The comments created some disquiet in the business community, with some questioning why Guernsey had been able to release its exit plan so much earlier.
Local business guru Kevin Keen said on Twitter: "Starting to lose confidence in management of this crisis & I don’t say that lightly. First model far too pessimistic, & now not sure about latest version. A sensibly phased exit plan cannot come soon enough for so many reasons."
Amid such comments on social media, Senator Sam Mézec took to Twitter to argue that the view of health experts should be prioritised over business considerations.
Owner of aMaizin! Adventure Park Kristina Le Feuvre replied saying that her focus was on being able to “plan ahead”.
You’re following the wrong people.— Kristina Le Feuvre (@Krislefeuvre) April 26, 2020
I’ve only seen calls for an exit strategy i.e. clearer information.
Me, myself and I, would just like to see a timeline that @GovJersey is working too so we can just plan ahead.
There’s a lot of frustration because the numbers don’t add up.
That view was echoed by owner of Cooper & Co David Warr, who wrote in Express today about the problems of food and beverage outlets potentially reopening under a social distancing scenario.
“Therein lies our dilemma. How do we viably trade in a café where under social distancing rules we need to remove half the seating?... The reality is that it is less costly for us to remain closed than to trade with half-empty cafes. That will be the case for all food service outlets, hotels, airlines etc.”
He later added: “If we open and are only able to operate at half-capacity, we will inevitably need to shed staff - the very staff our government rightly wants us to keep employed. That means financial assistance from government cannot realistically stop at simply co-funding payroll through this transition period.”
Meanwhile, Dominic Jones of JP Restaurants mused that, while he was happy to see more businesses eligible for phase two of the co-funded payroll scheme launched last week, the scheme was “still not optimally designed for economic recovery and now overly complex, inequitable and anti-competitive”.
Good news many previously ineligible Jersey businesses are finally eligible for support after weeks of unnecessary stress & uncertainty. But Phase 2 still not optimally designed for economic recovery and now overly complex, inequitable and anti-competitive. #coronavirusjsy— Dominic Jones (@DominicCJones) April 25, 2020
While Jersey struggles to keep its economy alive post-covid, on a national level, some businesses have already buckled.
Flybe was a notable loss for the islands. The Chief Minister warned on Friday that the health crisis’s impact on other airlines could also spell trouble for the island’s links with the mainland.
Currently, islanders can only travel via Blue Islands to the mainland with government permission for reasons such as essential work, medical treatment or other compassionate reasons. Routine work or leisure travel remains prohibited.
It was further hinted that unlocking the borders would be the final step in the lockdown exit plan – in common with Guernsey – but that this might not happen until as late as 2021.
Pictured: Off-island travel may not start until 2021.
As much as the health of the airlines, Senator Le Fondré said that when Jersey relaunches its air and sea routes will largely depend on the UK government’s wishes, as the island is part of the Common Travel Area.
However, Deputy Renouf expressed concerns on health grounds, describing opening up the flow of travel in and out of the island as “our greatest risk”.
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