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Minister calls for stricter testing measures at ports

Minister calls for stricter testing measures at ports

Thursday 09 July 2020

Minister calls for stricter testing measures at ports


The Environment Minister has made an outside push for stricter testing measures at the island's ports, likening the government's current travel policy to "gambling" with lives and the economy.

If Deputy John Young's proposals are agreed by States Members next week, anyone entering Jersey will be forced to remain in self-isolation as they await the results of a covid-19 test - in contrast to the current policy, which allows travellers to move freely around the island in the meantime.

Deputy Young also wants to see transport arranged to bring travellers directly to their destinations, and more guidance given to accommodation providers hosting tourists.

The proposals mark the second time that the Environment Minister has broken ranks over the 'Safer Travel Policy'.

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Pictured: Deputy Young wants all travellers to self-isolate as they wait for their results.

During a debate over whether borders should reopen last week, Deputy Young declined to support the travel plans drawn up by his Ministerial colleagues, instead calling for the reopening to be delayed until a testing programme involving a track and trace app are in place.

Despite his plea, the policy was adopted, and borders reopened on Friday with passengers given a choice of 14 days' quarantine or a PCR test on arrival at the ports. Anyone who opts for the latter is not forced to self-isolate while they await their result - the policy instead relies on their own "common sense" to willingly do so.

Concerns about the lack of enforced isolation surged earlier this week after two individuals arriving by air and sea had tested positive for covid-19. 

These then intensified after it emerged that a group of 21 passengers arriving on the Commodore Clipper from Portsmouth on Monday evening were not tested immediately upon arrival.

In what he described as a bid to make border arrangements “as safe and effective as possible in protecting our community”, Deputy John Young is proposing that not only anyone entering the island receive a PCR test upon arrival, but also that they self-isolate as they wait for their results.

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Pictured: Passengers on the Clipper were not tested when they arrived into the island on Monday.

In the event that testing facilities are not available upon arrival, travellers would be asked to self-isolate until they are tested.

The Environment Minister also wants his Infrastructure colleague, Deputy Kevin Lewis, to arrange “appropriate transport arrangements” using either buses or other private operators for those who need to self-isolate.

Finally, he is requesting that the Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, issue guidance to anyone providing tourist accommodation to those in quarantine to limit the risk of further infections.

According to Deputy Young, all of those measures should be implemented immediately and remain in place for a minimum of six weeks. They may then be renewed if the Health Minister deems it necessary.

In a report accompanying his proposals, Deputy Young appeared to take aim at his Ministerial colleagues as he spoke about a failed bid to change the policy to make self-isolation while awaiting a test result compulsory.

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Pictured: A previous bid to make it compulsory for travellers to self-isolate while they await their test results was voted down last week.

"It is of great regret that amendment was treated so dismissively by those promoting the policy in an emotional and highly charged debate; compounded by exaggerated claims of losing our air links," he said.

The Minister went on to say that the rejection of the amendment, which echoes his current proposals, had resulted “in deep division in our community”.

“This has especially affected many people who only recently have started to gain confidence to re-engage within our community and return to normal life, shopping, restaurants and even staycations,” Deputy Young said.

The division, he said, was only made worse by the news that two travellers had tested positive for the virus. While both decided to remain in their accommodation, the Minister noted that current arrangements would have permitted them to “roam freely in our community” for 37 and 27 hours respectively.

“We have been so lucky that both these people were responsible, acted sensibly and remained in the residences where they are staying,” Deputy Young said.

While health advisers have said the risk of being infected from a visitor is low, Deputy Young said the impact of the risk materialising is “potentially very great”.

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Pictured: The Environment Minister says new the risk of new infections is "too great to ...go unmanaged".

“At its worst it could result in the death of a vulnerable person, closedown of business premises, many other people being required to isolate and economic damage,” he stated.

“This is too great to allow the risk to go unmanaged, to do so is gambling. The proposition simply puts in place the additional safeguards in the procedure to close the gap and manages this risk.”

Concluding, the Minister commented: "To those that argue the inconvenience is too great, my response is this is a small price to pay for the benefits of reopening our borders. We can reduce the time required for self-isolation before providing test results and cope with a higher volume of tests, when we acquire the planned local testing capability."

Deputy Young's proposals are set to be debated by States Members on 14 July.

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Comments

Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.

Posted by John Henwood on
No point offering a comment, you don’t publish them.
Posted by T Hanson on
I think Deputy Young is right to ask that isolation is mandatory pending test results. Despite a not very good start to the Covid crisis, the States have gone on to do a good job in bringing the outbreak under control. The Achilles' heel is the virus being brought back into the Island and so we have to work on the basis that people may not comply with mere "advice," which in any event has to be crystal clear. Early evidence shows that it is not difficult for areas to get out of control quite rapidly. Life in the Island, however, can remain relatively normal if the procedures at the borders (including testing) work well.
Posted by Tony Day on
Clearly Deputy Youngs intention is to close the borders to tourist visitors - that is the effect his proposal will have.

There is no great division within the population, simply fear, uncertainty and doubt created by a small number of politicians when their sagacity is not wholly or completely shared

It is of course all about risk, nothing is risk free, look at the demographics of the visitors who arrive in Jersey, it isn't the age group who flout the rules in our society it is for the very most part those people who will follow the rules and there is very little chance of any of these getting near a vulnerable person in any case.

As for the Clipper incident, whose fault is it that they weren't tested on arrival, Deputy Young's proposal would be fine if he could guarantee results in 12 hours 24/7, if that can't be done and his proposal his passed, Jersey borders will effectively be closed to tourism until Spring 2021.
Posted by nigel pearce on
Why aren't travellers only permitted to travel if they have had a clear test three days before being allowed on the boat or planes? Surely this is the logical step to ensure the safety of the local populace.
Posted by John Henwood on
I do wish Deputy Young would stop nannying us. He and his controlling colleagues should concentrate on looking after the vulnerable and allow the majority to make their own, individual, risk assessments. Think about it, he wants to control the majority when he should be paying special attention to the minority - those who are particularly vulnerable or not in a position to exercise personal judgement on safety. And I say that as someone who is assessed as vulnerable, but still perfectly capable of exercising judgement.
Posted by Gary Hudson on
I understand this is a very contentious topic currently, but I'd just like to say how impressed l've been with the SOJ Covid-19 testing for arriving passengers. Arriving on Tuesday at 1330 on a Blue Island flight from Gatwick, at the same time as a TAP Air Portugal jet, l was met, escorted for testing and out the airport within 11 minutes, admittedly I didn't have to wait for hold baggage.

It was all professional, friendly and slick, and at 1629 the following day (27hrs) l received a text saying my Covid test had returned negative.

So whilst there may be flaws, and whilst l understand apprehension by some, l think for a solution to a recent problem, to get the island moving again, a good job done
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