The head of the Jersey Hospitality Association is calling for the Government to remove "blanket testing" of direct contacts unless they have symptoms.
Despite a pledge to “keep Jersey in business” by easing restrictions, numerous businesses have had to close or scale back their service as a result of covid cases in the workforce.
They’re also reporting that the growing net of direct contacts, who are not legally required to isolate but must agree to be tested more than once, is also playing havoc with the workforce.
There are currently more than 9,805 people identified as direct contacts in Jersey – and, with Public Health officials forecasting 500 positive cases per day by next week, the number is set to dramatically rise.
According to JHA CEO Simon Soar, “the current measures are making it nearly impossible for many venues to carry on operating.”
Pictured: Jersey Hospitality Association CEO Simon Soar.
“What we would like to see is an end to the blanket testing of direct contacts unless they are showing symptoms of covid-19,” he said.
Meanwhile, the island’s key lobby group, the Chamber of Commerce, said it was receiving “many frustrated calls from hospitality businesses where they are struggling to remain open, with a combination of contact tracing and lack of seasonal staff inhibiting them from maintaining normal opening hours and staffing at a time when Jersey is also conveying a message of being ‘open for business’.”
Currently, support is available for covid-hit businesses in the form of the Co-funded Payroll Scheme, but this is set to expire at the end of August, leaving some uncertain as to how they will cope if cases continue to affect them beyond this point.
Even keener to hear about what support will be available to them are nightclubs and events businesses, which were dealt another blow this week when the Government announced it would be further extending the pause on stand-up drinking and nightclubbing.
Given this delay, and the Government’s latest call to work from home again, the Chamber of Commerce has called for clarity on the changes and plans for further financial support.
“We are working with Government to emphasise that the four-week delay will have a really detrimental effect on businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors. These have had the worst experiences of Covid and in many cases they are desperately trying to keep their businesses afloat, to provide a service to customers and cope with paying their staff. There will be precious little left of a summer season with a long winter ahead, so Government support, which has been so successful so far, should be extended in these cases. Otherwise, jobs and livelihoods will be at stake,” said President Jennifer Carnegie.
Pictured: Chamber President Jennifer Carnegie.
“Safety and health of our communities are obviously paramount, and we strongly support data-led decision making and an appropriate balance of risk. For businesses and the public to make informed decisions in relation to Government recommendations, we need greater insights into the efficacy of the vaccine programme. Is the programme working to keep people out of hospital? If so, what are the reasons for halting the progress we have all been working towards? If not how significant is this new threat? We would like to understand why the focus is not on the low hospitalisation numbers, rather than the expected higher positive case results?”
Her comments were welcomed by Cooper and Co Owner David Warr, who reported on Twitter that the coffee chain’s Grand Marché café was forced to close due to covid yesterday.
Both Chamber and the JHA say they are in dialogue with Government about future support.
We had to close our Grand Marche outlet due to COVID t&t issues today. Just carnage @JenCarnegie summed it up in her Chamber comments. ‘Is the programme working to keep people out of hospital?’ If so, what are the reasons for halting the progress we have all been working towards?— David Warr (@WarrOnWords) July 14, 2021
Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham confirmed to Express yesterday that the Government was examining extending the Co-funded Payroll Scheme.
“All current business support schemes have been extended until the end of August, but we’re also aware that because of people testing positive having to isolate, that’s also causing an impact, staff shortages and creating difficulties. I’ve asked officers to look at that and we’ll be liaising with business groups in the days ahead,” he said.
Senator Farnham continued: “I would hope that the current support schemes would continue to provide adequate support, but we need to understand the challenges that are going to be faced especially over the next two to three weeks when positive case numbers are due to be high.
“…When we changed the guidelines which meant that direct contacts didn’t have to isolate, I think that freed up a lot of islanders to be able to continue to go about their lives and work normally but of course as the number of positive cases is high and expected to remain high, clearly that’s having an impact. We’re keen to understand more about that… and I’m keen to hear from any businesses who are facing challenges.”
Express understands an announcement about updates testing policy is due later today.
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