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Minister denies travel policy "solely responsible" for Christmas covid spike

Minister denies travel policy

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Minister denies travel policy "solely responsible" for Christmas covid spike


The Health Minister has denied that Jersey's travel policy was "solely responsible" for reintroducing covid back into Jersey's community, resulting in a significant spike in cases last year.

The comments from Deputy Richard Renouf were penned in response to a November 2020 Scrutiny report on the Government's 'Safer Travel Policy', but only released this week.

Jersey hit zero known covid cases in July, two days before borders reopened with a new arrivals testing policy. Between July and September, case numbers remained relatively low, but began to rise sharply from October. By December, case numbers had topped 1,000, with thousands more islanders being treated as direct contacts and required to quarantine.

While Scrutineers concluded in November that "the Safer Travel Guidelines [had] directly reintroduced covid-19 into the community", Deputy Renouf refuted this.

“While it is inevitable that positive cases will be detected at the border, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the Safer Travel Policy was solely responsible for a subsequent increase in case notification rates," he responded.

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Pictured: In September, the threshold for green regions was changed from having 25 cases per 100,000 to 50.

Further responding to the report, he argued that the rise in covid cases locally was “due to the volume of tests being conducted on arriving passengers leading to an increase in positive cases being detected.  

“Whilst it is inevitable that inbound travel has resulted in the introduction of cases to Jersey, the Safer Travel policy has provided a proportionate response to the level of risk through the evidence-based targeting of testing and isolation requirements.”

The Scrutiny Panel, which in an earlier report had suggested the borders reopening had been rushed by Government for economic reasons, concluded their report with a recommendation that all arrivals from green zones isolate until their day 5 test.

But the Health Minister said he did not accept this line of thinking, pointing instead to the Government's then-policy, which required green zone travellers to have three tests, but only have to isolate until the result of their first one comes through.

Two weeks after responding to Scrutiny, the Government took the decision to start treating all new arrivals to Jersey as having come from a 'red zone' - meaning at least 10 days' isolation - in response to the more infectious variants of covid being identified around the world.

The newly-released comments come after STAC minutes released last month showed that Deputy Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat MBE disagreed with the Government’s decision in September to change the threshold for 'green zones'.

muscatIvanMaskat.png

Pictured: Jersey's top pandemic medic, Dr Ivan Muscat MBE, disagreed with the decision to change the threshold on green regions.

On October 19, just days after 62 travellers had tested positive – 28 of whom had travelled from green areas - Dr Muscat expressed further regret his advice had not been taken up.

According to meeting minutes, he said "that the RAG (Red/Amber/Green) categorisation of areas should have been updated regularly, rather than delayed and that the decision should not have been taken to extend the categorisation of Green up from 25 cases per 100,000 population over the previous two weeks to 50."

At an earlier meeting on 5 October, former Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Turnbull also criticised the decision, with meeting minutes noting that “the political decision to extend [the green zone threshold] now gave her and colleagues good reason to be very concerned about a potential influx of cases. 

“24 hours was not a significant length of time, but anyone who had the virus had the potential to spread it during that period. The issue centred not just on the inconvenience caused to the passenger, but the wider risk to the community.”

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Posted by Guy de Faye on
It is all very well procrastinating over the "Christmas Covid spike", but there is one undeniable truth - crass failure of travel policy allowed Coronavirus 2019 into Jersey from the very start.

One of the singular advantages of living on an island is the capacity to control what comes in and what goes out. It is abundantly clear that, when news broke of a highly infectious and potentially deadly virus spreading across Europe from China, strict controls should have been imposed at all ports of entry, primarily at the Airport and St Helier Harbour.

Instead, residents and visitors continued to arrive - initially being offered Covid 19 information leaflets and requested to undergo a voluntary two week quarantine period that was unsupervised. This was at a time when no vaccine was available and was many months or years from being mass produced, plus accurate virus testing was still being developed.
The only option to prevent spread of the infection was isolation. This was soon summarily imposed on Jersey residents AFTER the virus had been given easy access to our community.

The impact to date has been nearly 70 fatalities, an initial advised government spending cost of £208 Million (with a further £100 Million budgeted for 2021), unquantifiable damage to Jersey's economy and continued impositions on normal life.

A person or group of senior officials at the highest level within Government of Jersey took the decision to allow Coronavirus 2019 into the Island in order to favour the economy over public health. It was a catastrophic miscalculation - but there has not been one single resignation from office. Worse - those responsible are still making decisions on behalf of our community.

I do not expect that accountability will be justly allocated and there is no sign that any responsibility will be admitted. However, now that we know that international travel is the primary contributor to the spread of the virus, only inhibited by quarantine and travel bans, Jersey needs to understand at least one thing - WHO LET CORONAVIRUS 2019 IN?
Posted by Martin Clarke on
Renouf has the same attitude as his fellow ministers: not my fault. Muscat was absolutely correct: a cynic like me would say that the Ministers didn't listen to him because he was not a highly or overpaid consultant. The Directors of the Royal Yacht and its manager should be in La Moye pending trial on a charge of manslaughter, absolutely appalling what was allowed to happen and still the Deputy Chief Minister is demanding hospitality is fully opened ASAP. There are enough intelligent and capable people in Jersey without the community having to suffer the current clowns masquerading as Ministers. Dare nobody suggest a curfew is introduced from 6.00pm when Hospitality is allowed to open, until there is conclusive proof that Hospitality is behaving and protecting both their customers and the public.
Posted by Private Individual on
Why were Jersey Reds allowed to come back to Jersey without carrying out a full 2-week isolation from their game on Saturday?
Posted by Private Individual on
I agree with your comment Mr. Clarke.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
It is a massive shame that there is not a instrument that could dissolve our current States Assembly and lead us to New Elections at the soonest opportunity ~ lets face it me need a change of Ministers NOW; before further damage is done to our Island and its people.
Posted by on
A lot of nonsense talked about the borders. We should be reclassifying parts of the UK to green and amber now their case numbers have fallen.
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