Jersey tests for covid-19 could be sent to Guernsey for analysis to speed up the process, the Chief Minister has said, after the nearby island secured the final bit of kit it needed to set up a dedicated facility.
The comments from Senator Le Fondré came last night, as he announced that the number of patients officially confirmed to have the illness locally has hit 32 following a five-day wait for new results and warned that a lockdown may not be far away.
A total of 671 islanders have been tested in total, with 472 receiving negative results. 167 results are pending.
Senator Le Fondré said the results showed that “the virus has now begun to spread and is no longer confined to people returning from abroad”, but said he was not clear on exactly how many people had caught the illness locally.
The latest update, as of Thursday 26 March at 4.30pm:— Government of Jersey (@GovJersey) March 26, 2020
472 confirmed negative
32 confirmed positive
1 person tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) has sadly died.
Read the latest advice: https://t.co/vulxRxQ6VV#CoronavirusJSY pic.twitter.com/MdU4y7cTfU
The news came just hours after the first local death linked with the virus was confirmed, and the Health Minister announcing that all islanders over the age of 65 and those with underlying conditions will have to enter self-isolation.
Speaking about the latter, the Chief Minister noted that it will be “necessary” to roll out these measures to all islanders “in the near future”.
Grilled on the delay after revealing the latest confirmed case figures, Senator Le Fondré explained that Jersey relies on a laboratory in London, which is one of the worst-hit areas in the UK.
Before the weekend, he said that the island had received all results within “roughly 48 hours”, but that this had dramatically increased in line with demand across the whole UK.
Referring to the new self-isolation measures for the elderly and vulnerable, he added: “That’s why we’re taking precautionary steps now in anticipation that we are not getting the data quite as quickly.”
Video: The Chief Minister at the press conference yesterday.
The Chief Minister went on to say that it was still “a few weeks away” until the island gets its own testing facility, but that it was “pursuing every avenue” to speed up getting results in the interim.
“That will be a real step up and a real positive move,” he said, adding that it will enable “understanding at what point people have recovered and therefore what the progress of the disease is through the island”.
Meanwhile, Guernsey received the final piece of kit it needs to conduct testing and analysis of samples on-island yesterday, and is currently assessing its quality.
Jersey’s Chief Minister said he expected that this facility would be available for use by Jersey.
“As far as I’m concerned, both of the islands in this instance, whoever gets the kit, I’m sure we will work together in the best interests of all Channel Islanders.
“Certainly from our perspective, I’m sure we’d be willing to assist Guernsey if it was needed and… my understanding is that Guernsey would be willing to assist us again in all of our hours of need.”
Asked about sharing with Guernsey, the island’s Chief Minister Gavin St Pier tweeted yesterday: “Let’s be clear: there is still some way to go. But, yes, of course we have had discussions with Jersey to see how our resources may be able to help.”
Let's be clear: there is still some way to go. But, yes, of course we have had discussions with Jersey to see how our resources may be able to help. Everyone needs to stay focused though on the top priority which is getting our own programme up and running first. #walkbeforerun— Gavin St Pier (@gavinstpier) March 26, 2020
Elsewhere during the press conference, Senator Le Fondré also faced questions from Express on how medical staff that had been in contact with the sadly deceased islander have been supported.
He said that they had been tested and that his “understanding is that, until tests are received, they are self-isolating”.
He was also asked whether he would consider using hotels as field hospitals, following an offer of assistance from the Radisson.
Senator Le Fondré said the idea was being “actively explored” and that the government had received a “variety of offers”, adding that the government would be taking distance from the hospital into consideration, and will “go for the best one that provides the best care for islanders”.
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