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STAC warned against Lions’ Jersey holiday

STAC warned against Lions’ Jersey holiday

Monday 09 August 2021

STAC warned against Lions’ Jersey holiday


Ministers pressed ahead with a plan to allow the British and Irish Lions to bypass normal quarantine rules and travel from South Africa for a Jersey holiday, despite warnings from their scientific advisers that it would set a “dangerous travel precedent”, it has emerged.

After being refused permission to fly straight home and avoid quarantine by the UK Government, members of the rugby squad are arriving in the island today for rest and relaxation following their final match in their tour against the Springboks in Cape Town on Saturday.

South Africa is currently on the UK's ‘banned list’, which Jersey follows. Regardless of vaccination status, travellers that have visited any jurisdiction on the list must isolate for 10 days and be tested on Day 0, 5 and 10.

However, Ministers have allowed the Lions to observe a less strict regime, as they toured as a ‘bubble’ for almost six weeks and have agreed to daily PCR testing for their first 10 days on the island. Those who are fully vaccinated will only isolate until their first negative result.

Those who are not fully vaccinated will have to isolate for longer, but only for five days rather than 10.

Planning for the trip started as the Lions completed their 10-day training camp in Jersey in mid-June, with recently released minutes of the Government’s Scientific Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) recording their “primary motivation” as being “to minimise the isolation requirements faced by the party on its return to the United Kingdom”, where a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 per person would be necessary.

testing swab pcr

Pictured: The Lions have agreed to daily PCR tests.

STAC were only told about the idea for the first time on 28 June, when they were given a presentation by Policy Principal James Lynch on allowing the Lions - a group of around 80, including staff - to be treated as ‘Green’ arrivals.

Minutes show that the advisory team responded with “unease” and “enquired whether or not there had been communication with the UK Government about this concept.” 

STAC also “questioned whether there was a risk of Jersey being regarded as a ‘back door’ to the UK."

They went on to identify South Africa – where the vaccine-evasive Beta variant of covid was first identified – as a “notable and considerable risk”.

Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat MBE (pictured top, centre) stated that his “very strong recollection” was that the Cell had “always maintained significant concerns across the board when there was the potential for the [Beta] variant of covid-19 to enter the island” and that “the extant travel policy should not be undermined”. 

beta variant vaccine resistant covid

Pictured: The Beta variant of covid - first identified in South Africa - can resist the vaccine due to a mutation in its spike protein.

He went on to note that STAC may set “a dangerous travel precedent if it acceded to the terms of the proposal”, but said that it was ultimately down to Ministers “to draw separate conclusions should they so wish.”

The Guardian reported on the holiday last week, saying that some Ireland-based players will return home to quarantine before coming to Jersey. Ministers only publicly confirmed the Lions' holiday to Jersey on Friday afternoon

The squad's June trip to Jersey also saw them take part in numerous community activities.

A grant of £175,000 - £100,000 of which came from Visit Jersey’s budget and £75,000 from the Government – covered their on-island expenses. That included £5,764 given to Strive to cover the cost of nitrogen needed for the cryotherapy chamber used by the Lions.

competentauthorities.jpg

Pictured: STAC, which expressed "unease" about the Lions plan, said it was for Competent Authority Ministers to have the final say.

This time round, however, the Lions will be here simply for a holiday, which the Government said would be funded by the team.

Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham - one of the Ministers who had the final say on the Lions trip - described it as “fitting that the Lions started their campaign in Jersey and will draw it to a close here as well" and said their return to Jersey would "once again raise our international profile as a visitor destination."

He added: “The training camp was a period of intense preparation, when they had limited time to enjoy the Island. This time, coaches and players will reunite with their families and will be able to properly see what the island has to offer.

“The squad will be welcomed as individual guests who are here to recuperate, with very limited work commitments. No formal community events will be arranged while they are here, and the cost of the visit is being met by the Lions.”

The Lions’ Managing Director Ben Calveley commented: “We are very grateful to the Jersey Government for allowing us to return to the Island. We very much enjoyed the 10-day training camp in June and look forward to experiencing everything the island has to offer now the Castle Lager Lions Series has concluded.”

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Posted by Lesley Ricketts on
By putting show before safety, our Government has once again demonstrated how little they care about the people who live here. Unbelievable!
Posted by captain sensible on
We should expect nothing else from this Barnum and Bailey outfit who masquerade as our government, set out to achieve.
Posted by Danny Moisan on
I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about? too many people focusing on fudged numbers which have zero correlation to actual harm! it's time the people who feel scared let the rest of society crack on with their own lives and stop interfering
Posted by Sidi Smith on
What an appalling decision. Our Government seems to be taking Boris Johnson s cavalier attitude to public safety - one rule for us, another for them
Posted by James Neal on
Some people comment on here and say who cares? It may not be so important to some, but if this was a worse disease, say a mortality rate like 20% would you care then? Maybe in the future we could have something like that, and we have a government who seems to put fame above the people of this island. Makes a mockery of lockdown doesn't it? Why bother going through all that in the first place if our government acts like this.
Posted by IanSmith97 on
I am of the camp which says we have to live with this disease and get back to normal. However this case would, evidenced by the story above, appear to be nothing but a cynical ruse by the Lions, who have done very well out of us, to circumvent the UK’s health regulations. The Lions and our supine ‘government’ should be ashamed.
Posted by Jon Jon on
Yes need to get back to normality, don't think that will happen now, but goverment allowing this are wrong, yes will send out a precedent, if I go way ,come back from red country then its two fingers up to government!They allowed this team so everyone else can follow suite! Roll on next year ,chuck this rubbish out!
Posted by Private Individual on
Another disgraceful appalling decision by Jersey's government.
Posted by David Moon on
Compétant authority ministers is that a misnomer or a joke?
Posted by anthony turmel on
Farnham...nothing to add,a lot to answer for..roll on the next election.
Posted by PatrickGormley9 on
Goodbye John Le F , Farnham and Gorst . The 3 studgies have got to go. To avoid the embarrassment, please please Don't bother to put yourselves up for
election next June ....!
Posted by Scott Mills on
They'll (3 stooges) will be rolling out the sweetner for fort regent future plans tomorrow as a sideswipe to letting the lions players, staff and families in after playing in south africa. Ironic we've not heard much about the "South African" variant for a while, nor the indian one come think of it. Disappeared like Mr Parker I expect. Lovely beaches
Posted by Chris Charman on
I am rather worried about this!
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