Two Ministers made a request to the Health Minister to partially reopen Jersey's hospitality sector in mid-December, suggesting that premises should be allowed to trade without alcohol or only serve it with a "substantial meal", it has emerged.
In newly-released minutes of a STAC meeting on 14 December, it was stated that Senator Lyndon Farnham and Senator Ian Gorst had written to Deputy Richard Renouf, copying in the Chief Minister, STAC's Chair and Dr Ivan Muscat, to request a “limited” reopening of the sector.
The “undated letter” came following the announcement of the circuit breaker on 2 December, which saw all licensed premises close their doors from 4 December.
According to the STAC minutes, the two Ministers mooted the following options to choose from for when the decision was to be reviewed two weeks on:
Pictured: A 'circuit break' which saw all licensed hospitality premises closed was put in place on 4 December.
However, this was disputed by STAC’s Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, Dr Ivan Muscat MBE, who stated in response that “there was evidence to demonstrate that hospitality settings were significant in the transmission of the virus, and in his view, it was too early to reduce any mitigations.”
Instead, he suggested that hospitality should actually be restricted further, questioning whether it was appropriate for other public spaces to remain open, such as coffee shops, or whether this could lead to “significant overcrowding.”
Pictured: Dr Ivan Muscat MBE, the Government's Deputy Medical Officer, said at the time "it was too early" to reduce any mitigations on hospitality.
The Independent Advisor for Epidemiology and Public Health weighed in by stating that "he would have preferred to have made it less attractive for people to attend hospitality venues, by allowing alcohol to be consumed, but only in conjunction with a substantial meal, whilst ensuring tables were appropriately spaced and the number of attendees limited.
"He did not believe this would have posed more of a risk than Islanders meeting within one another’s homes."
However, it was added he said he “did not advocate re-opening the sector at the current time, as it would convey the wrong message, but suggested that when the time arose it would need to be managed carefully and gradually, having given licensees advance notification, in order to avoid a spike in cases as people returned to those venues.”
On Christmas Eve, a further set of restrictions were placed on all other hospitality services too, with the exception of takeaway services. Earlier in the month, over 50 hospitality businesses wrote an open letter to the Council of Ministers requesting more support during the closures.
The minutes were among a collection of more than a dozen relating to meetings held in the final quarter of 2020, which were published today.
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