The Health Minister is seeking to extend powers allowing him to impose lockdown at any time until April 2021 in case of further outbreaks.
In September, Deputy Richard Renouf will be asking States Members to vote for some of the emergency measures passed in response to covid-19 hitting Jersey to be able to remain active beyond their current expiry date of 30 September.
24 pieces of domestic legislation have been introduced since March to address the pandemic.
The majority were given a six-month expiry date as it was anticipated at the time that the peak of infection would have passed by then.
Pictured: The Health Minister is proposing to extend some of the emergency powers introduce in response to the corona virus pandemic.
But in a report accompanying his proposals, the Health Minister notes that Jersey is “not yet free from the threat of covid-19” and that it is necessary to retain a legislation that allows quick decisions to be made to keep the virus under control, without restricting islanders’ liberties more than necessary.
“The initial outbreak of the virus has been managed and we have enjoyed a period of low case numbers for two to three months,” the Minister wrote.
“However, covid-19 transmission is currently increasing globally and in jurisdictions with which Jersey has close connections, and there is significant uncertainty as to what winter here will bring.
“The ongoing risk of further outbreaks will preclude a full return to normality. However, there is no desire to restrict the lives of islanders unnecessarily should the situation remain stable, and it would not be appropriate for Government to keep unprecedented powers close to hand indefinitely.”
He is therefore proposing to extend some of the legislation until 30 April 2021, while the rest would either be suspended until it is needed or repealed.
Pictured: The Assembly will discuss the extension on 8 September.
Deputy Renouf described the new expiry date as “reasonable”, saying the Government would not retain limited emergency powers for an “unduly long period” while still allowing the island to “move through the potentially more difficult winter period”.
If any further extension is needed, a proposition will need to be published by mid-February.
One of the powers the Health Minister is asking the Assembly to extend is that to make a ‘Restricted Movement Order’, which would enable him to put the island under ‘lockdown’.
The measures are part of the Covid-19 (Screening, Assessment and Isolation) (Jersey) Regulations, which also ensure incoming visitors as well as people who have covid-19 can be required to self-isolate.
“It is earnestly hoped that drastic action such as a lockdown will not be required again, but the power in the Regulations could be used in a more nuanced way and it is considered necessary to retain it until such time as provision can be made for more specific and targeted measures,” Deputy Renouf said.
Pictured: Authorities will also retain the power to shut down any gatherings or activities “likely to promote the spread of covid-19”.
Authorities will also retain the power to shut down any gatherings or activities “likely to promote the spread of covid-19”.
Emergency measures introduced in Jersey courts to avoid the spread of infection among the Judiciary and those who come into contact the court system will also be extended.
They provide for modified court procedures, reduction in the quorum of the Superior Number, the use of retired Jurats, the conduct of proceedings by virtual means, and variations to the right to jury trial.
Meanwhile, islanders can once again join the public galleries in Royal Court and jury trials should start again.
“[The Regulations] have proved to be very useful to the courts as preventative measures to avoid the spread of infection,” the Minister said.
Pictured: Restrictions around workplaces and construction sites could also be extended.
Restrictions around workplaces and construction sites have also been extended as Deptuy Renouf said current restrictions were necessary and proportionate, while the capacity to “re-escalate controls”, if needed, is “an essential tool to manage any future outbreak”.
Meanwhile, powers to close schools have been suspended, which means the Education Minister, Senator Tracey Vallois, will only be able to make such an order if the Medical Officer of Health deems it “necessary and proportionate”.
Employment allowances for Licensed and Registered People, along with the rent freeze and the relaxed rules around care provides, will all cease as planned on 30 September 2020.
News of the proposed extensions to the emergency legislation comes after the Health Minister issued a stark warning to islanders in a speech last week that life would not return to 'normal' as we know it until a vaccine has been found: "We will only be able to fully lift the pandemic public health measures at the point at which an effective vaccine is successfully deployed."
Pictured: The Minister warned that 'normality' can only resume when a vaccine is found.
He continued: "I can confirm that preparations are under way so that Government and the health system will be ready to vaccinate the Island population as soon as a viable vaccine becomes available.
"But while international developments are moving at pace, there is no certainty yet as to when an effective vaccine will be produced.
"Until that time, it is critical that Islanders and businesses continue to comply with all public health guidelines."
Dr Ivan Muscat, who is leading the island's virus response, confirmed that they were already in the process of drawing up an action plan to ensure that the vaccine can be distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible to the islanders that need it most.
Pictured: Dr Ivan Muscat, who is leading the island's pandemic response.
It is hoped that a vaccine would be developed and arrive by the autumn period.
Alongside this, a seasonal flu vaccination programme will also be rolled out this autumn to avoid the island taking a double-hit of influenza and covid-19 - the combined effects of which are not fully known, Dr Muscat said.
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