Zero isolation for fully vaccinated direct contacts is under urgent consideration after Ministers yesterday came under pressure to deal with the rapidly rising numbers of islanders in quarantine.
A total of 872 people were self-isolating yesterday, a rise of 85 on the previous day, while 51 people were confirmed to have the virus.
The island's number of cases per 100,000 - 48.24 over a 14-day period - means that the island is now on Guernsey's 'watch list' for travel restrictions.
News of the latest increase inflamed existing frustrations among islanders over the current contact tracing process, which has seen some fully vaccinated islanders forced to isolate for around 10 days, only leaving quarantine after three negative covid tests.
Some pointed out, however, that people who have received both doses of the covid jab can still contract and spread covid-19 to others, even if they do not become unwell themselves.
Since Tuesday 15 June, 4 new cases have been identified through inbound travel.— Government of Jersey (@GovJersey) June 16, 2021
The number of active cases in the Island is 51.
34 cases are symptomatic and 17 cases are asymptomatic. pic.twitter.com/t63Xylm92k
Responding yesterday evening to a tweet from JPRestaurants CEO Dominic Jones calling for a policy rethink “before [the] whole island ends up in isolation”, Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham said he believed “those fully vaccinated should be exempt from all isolation.”
“If absolutely necessary a PCR test after contact tracing should suffice. Ministers currently discussing. I am looking for a quick resolution,” he added.
Shortly after 06:00 this morning, Senator Farnham said in an update: “At a meeting yesterday evening ministers asked Public Health officials to prepare an evidence paper to enable STAC to consider at their meeting next Monday and to provide advice to ministers as soon as possible.
"I would expect a final decision to be made early next week.”
Update: At a meeting yesterday evening ministers asked Public Health officials to prepare an evidence paper to enable STAC to consider at their meeting next Monday and to provide advice to ministers as soon as possible. I would expect a final decision to be made early next week.— Sen. Lyndon Farnham (@lyndonfarnham) June 17, 2021
He was also urged yesterday by CI Travel Group Managing Director Robert Mackenzie to confirm a policy for children of fully vaccinated islanders, to which he replied: “Working on it, announcement very soon.”
The final covid reopening measures – the return of nightclubs and stand-up drinking, and unlimited numbers of people allowed at gatherings in homes and gardens – were also under consideration.
They were due to change on Monday, but were put off until the following week (21 June) to give contact tracers time to catch up. At the time, there were just 271 people in isolation.
With the majority of the cases in Jersey believed to be the more infectious Delta variant, Environment Minister Deputy John Young doesn’t believe now was the right time to be considering more relaxations.
He told Express he was frustrated that the Council of Ministers was being frozen out of discussions. Previously the Competent Authority Ministers (CAM) – the emergency-decision makers by law – had appeared to value a wider variety of views, and sought the Council’s “endorsement”, but he said this was no longer the case and that Ministers were not being briefed in advance about major changes.
Pictured: The return of nightclubs and stand-up drinking is currently scheduled on Monday - Ministers yesterday discussed whether this should still go ahead.
Such was the case with Monday’s unscheduled removal of masks as a legal requirement in most public settings – something Deputy Young said came as a “surprise” to him – “it had become a social norm, respect for other people. And now we’ve sent signals to say don’t do that. I think it’s about mixed messages.”
CAM is made up of the Chief Minister, and Health, Economic Development, External Relations, Infrastructure and Home Affairs Ministers.
He wrote to the Chief Minister and Health Minister, as well as leading members of STAC, on Tuesday night, saying: “As a non-competent Minister I think we are entitled to ask why we are relaxing Covid measures such as mask wearing in shops and enclosed spaces, at the very time when we are in a fast rising wave of infection of a more virulent virus, I recognise the PR that this is all borders but can we be 100% confident I ask that there is no local seeding brewing up?
“The Covid measures have worked well for months, with nil to no infections and now we have 47 cases, 780 contacts and rising fast. Seems inconsistent and illogical that we put our foot on the relax accelerator at this time when even the UK has the sense to review and take the foot off the pedal.
“I hope at tomorrow’s CAM you will be open to advice and not be defensive of past decisions. Circumstances change.”
Deputy Young, who has previously broken ranks over travel plans, told Express he had also been concerned about the decision to cancel emergency brake requirements to fully vaccinated people.
Pictured: The Environment Minister has questioned whether it is the right time for more relaxations.
Many on social media also called for pre-departure PCR tests to be made compulsory for new arrivals as a compromise for keeping the borders as open as they are currently.
Beyond an extra layer of protection against further covid cases entering the island, it may also provide some comfort to those travelling at peak times - one person painted a chaotic picture of the Airport on Sunday when three flights arrived at once in an email to the Health Minister, Ports of Jersey and covid teams within Government.
“Due to this there was a queue in the baggage hall of nearly one hour before we were moved through to the testing area - the queue was not socially distanced at all - no efforts to make it so - all passengers were mixed up from the various flights.
“I was therefore standing next to potentially infected people for longer than the actual flight time - so apparently I was at risk according to your assessment criteria ie being within 2 metres of someone else in an enclosed space - but of course no tracing was carried out or available for the queue - therefore the flight seat tracing becomes pointless.”
Pictured: Some people have called for a pre-departure PCR test to clamp down on covid cases at the borders.
Over the weekend, Acting Medical Officer for Health, Dr Ivan Muscat MBE, reminded food and drink venues of the importance of contact tracing. He warned that those with inadequate procedures would be named publicly if someone later found to be infected with covid had visited.
Yesterday, he turned his attention to school staff, students, parents and the education community, making a plea to "keep your guard up."
"We know how little it takes to set all the good work back and none of us can afford to relax just yet," he wrote.
"It is likely that schools will be affected by covid-19 cases before the end of this summer term, so we need to keep our guard up and continue to be prepared."
Indeed, schools have already been hit – there is a case at Victoria College and D’Auvergne, several students have had to return to virtual learning from home due to being contact traced, and a prom for Le Rocquier students was cancelled at the last-minute earlier this week when several attendees were named direct contacts.
Pictured: D'Auvergne Primary School and Victoria College were recorded as having a case each earlier this week.
New UK research about the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India, suggest its symptoms are more likely to resemble a bad cold or hay fever, particularly among young people with a headache, sore throat and runny nose now the most commonly reported symptoms.
The Zoe Covid Symptom Study, which is based on around one million weekly reports, also recently found that, in the UK, the current risk of a new covid infection among the unvaccinated is one in 2,908, while after one vaccine dose it is one in 7,091. After two vaccine doses, this becomes one in 22,455.
Jersey's Government said its testing strategy already fitted with the new profile of covid infections - since April, anyone who newly develops one of the following symptoms without an obvious reason is urged to get tested:
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