Ministers have announced a ‘lockdown lite’, involving the closure of all hospitality and fitness venues and a 2m distancing law coming back into force, following a “sobering” warning that the Nightingale Hospital will have to open if covid case numbers continue to rise.
The ‘circuit-breaker’ announcement follows Jersey experiencing its worst ever rise in confirmed case numbers in a single day, with 56 identified in the past 24 hours taking the total to more than 330.
It will begin on Friday 4 December at 00:01 and will see all hospitality venues close, as well as all gyms and indoor sport and fitness activities, potentially until 4 January.
Maintaining a 2m physical distance will also be made law again, including within shops. Anyone failing to comply will be guilty of an offence and liable for a penalty. Alternative arrangements will be made for healthcare and school settings.
Enforcement officers will also be able to disperse gatherings over certain sizes under a new order.
Pictured: All licensed premises will have to close from Friday.
While the moves effectively add up to a ‘lockdown lite’, islanders are not currently facing any restrictions on the maximum amount of time they can spend outside their homes.
However, they have been warned that, if the measures fail to bring covid case numbers under control in the next few weeks, even more stringent rules could follow.
There are now a total of 331 individuals officially recorded as having covid, while 2,840 direct contacts are in isolation.
Eight individuals, meanwhile, are in hospital with the virus. Six of those were in hospital receiving treatment for another condition when they tested positive as part of a screening process. One individual in a local care home also has been identified as having covid.
Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré said that the current R-rate - a figure showing the people that one infected person will go on to spread covid-19 to – was currently between 1.4 and 1.9.
Pictured: Ministers have warned the Nightingale will have to open if cases continue to rise.
“This means each case is, on average, passing the infection onto more than one other person. This is too much and we need to introduce more stringent restrictions to protect islanders,” he explained.
“If we don’t take this action now, we could be facing more stringent restrictions. However, we anticipate that these actions will, in the next two to three weeks, lead to a reduction in case numbers. This will not happen straight away, as a change in measures takes at least two weeks to make an impact on figures. We must therefore take this action to protect both our population and our healthcare system.”
Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf described the latest measures as having followed “sobering advice from our scientific and medical colleagues”, indicating that if the number of covid cases in the community continues to rise, “we will need to open the Nightingale Ward.”
He explained that, if action isn't taken, by Boxing Day, one in 10 islanders could be isolating and there could be two or more people being hospitalised due to the virus every day.
Pictured: Deputy Renouf explaining the consequences for the island if action isn't taken.
He continued: “I have already made mask-use and contact-tracing a legal requirement, and the permitted size of gatherings has been reduced. Now it’s time to take these restrictions further. This isn’t a lockdown and we won’t be limiting the time people can spend outside their homes, but we are trying to limit the potential for uncontrolled spread of covid-19 by closing hospitality venues, gyms and indoor exercise classes, and by keeping people further apart in public areas.”
Businesses affected by the latest measures are expected to be offered financial help via the Co-funded Payroll Scheme. It is not clear at this stage whether any other support packages will follow.
Reform Jersey - which recently assumed the role of the 'Opposition' to Government - reacted angrily to the latest measures last night.
The party explained that they had "opposed the premature opening of our borders" and that they believed measures such as "making wearing masks compulsory and banning gatherings above a certain size... should have come much earlier."
Our statement on today's news that increased restrictions will be imposed as a result of rising cases of Covid-19. pic.twitter.com/wBVantDUOt— Reform Jersey (@ReformJersey) December 2, 2020
They added: "Rather than blame young people, the Government should have adopted stronger messaging and tougher action at an earlier stage, to prevent complacency and reduce the chances of clusters forming, which have now led to the spread of the virus.
"The Government must not dither, and instead be prepared to implement a lockdown the moment it becomes necessary to protect islanders' wellbeing and continue to provide support for businesses to protect jobs and livelihoods."
The Jersey Hospitality Association responded to the new measures by saying its members "will do whatever possible to ensure we can spend xmas with our loved ones."
While tonight’s announcement will be difficult for our sector, we understand why this decision has been taken and fully support this temporary measure because it is what is best for the island. We will do whatever possible to ensure we can all spend xmas with our loved ones. pic.twitter.com/4TCbvOSnCy— Jersey Hospitality (@jsyhospitality) December 2, 2020
Some businesses have already announced plans to adapt to the new rules.
Speakeasy bar The Blind Pig, for example, announced it would be launching a cocktail delivery service, while some restaurants said they would be able to provide takeaway options instead.
Retail giant SandpiperCI said its supermarkets - which include M&S (aside from the Liberty Wharf branch), Morrisons Daily and Iceland - would stay open until 22:00 to allow customers to physical distance more easily.
Pictured: SandpiperCI supermarkets will stay open later to spread footfall over longer periods.
"It is hoped extended opening hours will help spread footfall over longer trading periods to reduce queues and bottlenecks and help customers to shop safely. Sandpiper successfully introduced similar initiatives during Spring's covid-19 lockdown," a spokesperson said.
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As for “our scientific and medical colleagues” Since when has science been exact or medicine other than being “practiced” meaning it changes its ideas faster than the weather and seldom embodies that unknown quantity nowadays “Common Sense”.
So let's get on and do what's needed now.