The testing of direct contacts and inbound travellers who are not fully vaccinated is being scaled back to free up testing resources to focus on islanders with covid symptoms.
Direct contacts of people that have tested positive for the virus will now only have to have one test as soon as possible after they have been identified. They will not have to isolate at all, but will be asked to “remain cautious” in the activities they carry out over the following 10 days.
Passengers who have not had both covid jabs, meanwhile, will still be required to have a test on arrival and isolate until their result, but will no longer have to have a test on Day 8.
This will not apply, however, if they have come from a country on the UK's banned list.
Pictured: Travellers who are not fully vaccinated will no longer have to have a Day 8 test, unless they've come from a UK red zone.
The Government also announced this afternoon that 'Group C' in the Workforce Screening Programme - the lowest risk group - will now be asked to undergo weekly lateral flow testing instead of a single PCR test every eight weeks. This means testing themselves, rather than having to attend the testing station at the Harbour.
This group is made up of islanders working in the sectors of:
Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré predicted earlier this week that the island could conduct up to 30,000 tests this week, given the island's rocketing covid case numbers. By 20 July, it's expected that there could be up to 500 new cases identified per day.
Jersey's Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat MBE, explained that the test positivity rate was highest among individuals showing symptoms – roughly 40%.
Pictured: Islanders in the lowest risk group in the workforce screening programme are being asked to do weekly lateral flow tests.
In contrast, fewer than 1% of passengers arriving in Jersey are returning positive results.
He made it clear that the island's testing capacity is "finite" and therefore it was important to "target the resource we have in the most effective way."
The island currently has the capacity to process a maximum of 4,500 tests per day on-island and 2,000 off-island. A Government spokesperson told Express that the removal of the Day 8 testing requirement would free up "192 to 656 [test slots] over the next seven days."
It has not been confirmed how many tests are estimated to be freed up as a result of direct contacts now only having to be tested once.
The Chief Minister said this afternoon that the testing regime change was linked with Jersey's high levels of vaccination.
"Our testing strategy has always used a risk-based approach, and our testing programme was designed to contain the spread of the virus, protect our borders and our Island community," he commented.
"As we have now entered a new phase in the vaccination protection, with 83% of first doses delivered to over 18s ahead of schedule and on our way to delivering 80% of second doses in early August, we are repositioning our testing strategy to ensure our resources are being used to protect islanders in the best possible way."
The announcement follows calls for direct contact testing changes from the CEO of Jersey Hospitality Association Simon Soar, who explained that the combination of covid cases and contact tracing were leading some venues to have to close or scale back their operations.
"What we would like to see is an end to the blanket testing of direct contacts unless they are showing symptoms of covid-19. As we are seeing, the current measures are making it nearly impossible for many venues to carry on operating," he said.
Given the rising numbers of covid cases in the island, Ministers announced earlier this week that islanders were now "strongly advised" to wear a mask in public settings, and work from home if possible to help reduce the spread of covid in the community.
There are currently 1,731 cases in the island - six people are in hospital, and there has been an outbreak at a care home affecting nine people.
As a result, Scrutineers have called an urgent public hearing with the Chief Minister and Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, later today.
The group say they have "serious concerns about the strategy for mitigating the rise in cases which the Island is now experiencing, the clarity of the public messages and the transparency and leadership of Ministers."
They plan to grill the Ministers about the challenges faced by the test and trace team, and the potential further pressure on healthcare at the General Hospital.
Deputy Rob Ward, Chair of a panel that has been examining the island's travel guidelines, commented: “It is vital that we seek answers about the current circumstances and the Ministerial decision-making of the last few weeks. The significant rise in covid-19 cases since the beginning of July is having widespread repercussions in our community, our schools and on the provision of services.
“We want to be very clear about the strategy which Ministers have pursued to arrive at the situation that the Island is now in, the direction that they are taking now and what expert advice they are acting on to safeguard the best interests of all islanders.”
It will be held via Microsoft Teams at 18:00 and can be viewed live HERE.
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