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Pressure builds on Ministers as nearly 900 in quarantine

Pressure builds on Ministers as nearly 900 in quarantine

Thursday 17 June 2021

Pressure builds on Ministers as nearly 900 in quarantine

Thursday 17 June 2021


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.

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.”

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.

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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. 

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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.”

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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.

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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:

  • fever
  • cough
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • diarrhoea
  • fatigue/tiredness
  • muscle ache
  • loss of smell/taste

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Comments

Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

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Posted by Sheila Young on
With numbers rising so dramatically we need to increase not decrease restrictions and bring back masks otherwise we will shortly have huge numbers of infected people.
Posted by on
It is ridiculous that it is even being considered to allow people to roam freely even with both vaccine doses as they can still carry the virus. Worse still they will show no symptoms unless tested. Th potential to infect the population is very real indeed.
Posted by John Henwood on
This small spike is no surprise, it is what we have to get used to into the future and possibly permanently. We can walk in fear of coronavirus and keep putting up the shutters, or we can come to terms with the probability that it’s with us for the very long haul and come to terms with that fact. Life must go on and, death is something that everyone has to confront - you can’t sweep that unpalatable fact under the carpet. I vote for life, for as long as we can experience and enjoy it. Let’s get on with it.
Posted by Citizen Noone on
Lock down Jersey, lock down UK, lock down Terra, lock down Galaxy, maybe we can get rid of _____....who knows?!?
Maybe I get it wrong, but the death rate is around 2%, world wide. Also the Vaccine doesn't make you immune, just protect you more, like 80-90%, depend of which one you get.
Posted by Dawn Armstrong on
Numbers in uk are rising exponetially we are told with the greatest numbers amongst children. Yet young children are not tested or have to isolate even if coming from a red area.
Roll on lockdown mk3.
Furthermore the vaccines are maybe 90-95% effective at preventing symptoms but NOT at preventing infection, that is less, maybe much less, the jury is still out on that.
Then there is long-covid, very nasty, that the vaccines doen't seem to prevent.
Then there is lo
Posted by Charlie Oz on
This is what happened last year so take heed! Otherwise we will need another lockdown which will effect the economy yet again. I say learn from past mistakes, the more contagious variant is now on the island too, one that current vaccines won’t protect against, apply more restrictions not less is my opinion, before it’s too late!
Posted by Jon Jon on
This vaccine won’t prevent a person contracting covid,no one knows how long this vaccine will work for,there will be many many variants probably for our lives.I’d like to know how many people currently entering island ,having both vaccines are testing positive,or is it people that have had no vaccine at all.
Posted by MichaelEvans46 on
Lockdown, no lockdown, we’ll change our minds again in a couple of days, the CM and all his ministers/ advisors are useless! At the moment i am in Manchester to see my 97 year old dad, the first time in over 17 months after cancelling 4 times to try to see him, rebooked at short notice last week when the rules changed after canceling the week before because the rules changed and now it looks like when I return I’ll have to isolate, a bunch of clowns!
Posted by Ruth Smith on
I think what we need is everyone , irrespective of whether or not they have had a double vacc, has a PCR test.
What we need to know is their vaccination status on arrival, then if they test positive, proper data can be collected.
Also, EVERYONE needs to isolate until the first test result comes back!
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