The isolation rules for school children who have been in contact with a covid case have been eased in response to an increasing number of pupils being required to stay in their rooms.
From today, secondary school children identified as a direct contact will only have to isolate until a Day 5 negative test result – down from the current 10-day requirement.
They will still have to be tested on Days 0, 5 and 10.
Nursery and primary school children identified as a direct contact will be required to isolate until their first negative test result. They too will be tested on Days 0, 5 and 10.
The isolation requirements for all children identified as a direct contact will also be eased in response to Ministers’ concerns about the wellbeing of children and young people required to isolate.
While still being required to isolate at home and not return to school, children and young people will no longer need to be confined to a single room within a household.
They will be able to leave the house, under supervision, for fresh air and exercise in open spaces, avoiding crowded areas while following physical distancing and public health guidance.
The Government is urging families to take a common sense approach now that isolating children are able to move about their homes – including maintaining a reasonable distance and continuing to regularly wash hands.
However, they are keen to draw a distinction between the more restrictive “isolation” and the less restrictive “separation”, which is now the new approach for younger direct contacts. They also want to move away from a rules-based approach to one of personal responsibility.
Pictured: Deputy Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat.
Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat said: “The burden of the disease has now reduced significantly. It is not just about the number of infections but the significance of those infections.
"Due to the extremely good vaccination coverage in the island's older age groups, test positivity in Jersey is now highest among islanders under the age of 18 at 3%. This compares to around 1.4% in islanders aged 18 to 39 years old, and less than 0.5% in those over the age of 40.
"A higher incidence of infection in secondary schools has also been noted in the UK. This higher incidence appears to be due to the increased social mixing between this age group.
“Children remain at lowest risk from the effects of covid-19, with most exhibiting asymptomatic or mild symptoms from covid-19 infection.
"But severe complications in children while relatively rare are clearly documented. Long Covid can affect all ages and is well described in children. The long-term implications of covid infection in children will only become evident with time."
He continued: "Childhood is a delicate and fundamental period of life, critical for acquisition of social, behavioural and educational development. But completely removing isolation requirements and thereby allowing covid-19 infection to spread among children and young people who have not been vaccinated would not be an acceptable approach.
"We are aiming to achieve the best balance that we can within this context.
“We still need to be careful to restrict the growth in cases, but the vaccine has changed the profile of who is getting it. We need to make sure that the freedoms we have gained are not lost.”
Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré added: “When Competent Authority Ministers reduced the isolation requirement for fully-vaccinated adults who are direct contacts last week, we committed to islanders that we’d urgently review the policy for children and young people.
“Having received advice from STAC and Public Health, Ministers have decided to reduce the isolation requirements for secondary aged children from ten days to until a Day 5 negative test result is received, and until a Day 0 negative test result for nursery and primary aged children.
"This strikes a good balance of continuing to protect our children and young people from catching and spreading the virus, while also prioritising their mental, physical and educational wellbeing.
“With our current vaccination coverage, the risk of contracting and transmitting the virus is proportionately higher for young, unvaccinated, people with 864 children and young people identified as a direct contact since half term, and 360 of our current direct contacts are school-aged children. Secondary school-age students currently have the highest infection rate.
“However, with our vaccination rates continuing to grow and most of the island's vulnerable now fully vaccinated, we must ensure that the approach for children and young people is appropriate.
"The new policy continues to safeguard our young people and protect them from the virus, while ensuring preventative measures such as isolation requirements are proportionate whilst also taking into account the lesser severity of symptoms amongst young people."
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