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"Shocked" Minister suggests confidence vote over Lions’ holiday

Monday 09 August 2021

"Shocked" Minister suggests confidence vote over Lions’ holiday


One of Jersey's Ministers has said he was “shocked” to learn the British and Irish Lions have been allowed to bypass normal quarantine rules and travel from South Africa to Jersey for a holiday - which he described as a “blatant breach of UK rules”, and hinted it could lead to a vote of no confidence in the Government.

Deputy John Young voiced his concerns in an email sent to all States Members today, after newly releases minutes revealed that the Government’s top scientific advisors warned it would set a “dangerous travel precedent."

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

Deputy Young said he was “truly shocked” by the news.

“What on earth got into CAM [the Competent Authorities Minister - the small group of Ministers who have the final say on island-wide restrictions during the pandemic] to allow such a blatant breach of UK rules which are there for a reason,” he wrote.

The Minister voiced concerns about the Beta variant, which is prevalent in South Africa, noting it has the ability to bypass vaccines. He added that Oxford University have focused in their booster trial on this Beta variant, because “if allowed to seed in our community [it] could send us round the 18 months loop again and cost lives”.

Speaking to Express this morning, he added: "I am really astonished that such risk is being taken. I could have understood if we wanted to provide a quarantine hotel facility for them, because it’s nicer to have a quarantine hotel in Jersey where they have no interaction with the community, that would have been acceptable."

hotel2hospitalitytourism.jpg

Pictured: Deputy Young said it would have been acceptable to provide a quarantine hotel where the Lions would have no contact with the community.

Beyond the risk posed by the Beta variant, Deputy Young said he is concerned the decision could harm islanders' travel prospects within the Common Travel Area.

"It looks to me like we are bypassing the international travel rules from the UK," he said. "It’s a very high risk situation in that, at the moment we get the benefit as a member of the Common Travel Area of those international rules applied to Jersey. If the UK sees us flouting those roles, it puts us at risk. We could at worse find us excluded and where does that leave us as a community?"

Planning for the Lions trip started as they 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.

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 asking them to consider 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”.

Ivan Muscat

Pictured: Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat MBE, said the Cell had always maintained "significant concerns" about the potential for the Beta variant to enter the island.

Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat MBE 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”.

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.”

Deputy Young described the action to allow the holiday as “foolish” and said it undermined the island’s health experts, whom he praised for recording their objection.

"It’s very, very serious for those CAM to undermine our health experts who have carried us through safely," he said. "It’s an act of irresponsibility. I am astonished that the Emergency Council have allowed this to happen."

The Minister suggested the decision could lead to the Ministers being challenged in the Assembly and possibly ousted, noting “frankly, this is VONC [vote of no confidence, ed.] territory”.

With only 10 months to go before the election, he however said he would not be bringing such a proposition himself as he does not want to put the Island Plan, which he described as critical for the island, at risk.

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Posted by Private Individual on
This government has to go!
Posted by John Henwood on
Oh please Deputy Young! A confidence vote over whether the Lions should be allowed in - how petty. Haven't you got more pressing matters to worry about? In less than 11 months' time I'll be able to decide whether I have confidence in all our elected representatives and in the meanwhile get on with the important stuff.
Posted by john garner on
They can do a lot of damage in 11 months .......assuming we still even get an election
Posted by IanSmith97 on
The Lions ‘holiday’ is nothing more than a cynical ruse to circumvent the UK’s health regulations. The fact our ‘government’ has allowed our island to be used in this ruse is shameful. I wonder if they would do it for Fred or Ethel Bloggs? No, I don’t think so. Shameful. I wonder if this was all agreed beforehand to tempt them to train here? Training which cost me, a taxpayer.
Posted by Scott Mills on
Looks like the mafia carpet cartel is getting bigger each day. 10,000 fans packed anfield yesterday for a friendly football game, yet a few kids can't go to weekender. Why has Jersey stopped copying the UK.
Posted by Des Pyper on
Surely as a Minister Dep. John you have a say or is everything behind closed doors nowadays. Where is the transparency we were promised when even our elected representatives are bypassed and what has happened to the overstuffed Communication Dept.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
I don't normally agree with Deputy John Young, but IF we can get rid of C.A.M. ( mob of con-artists ) sooner than waiting until next year, I'm all for it. In any event JLF and his Merry Men MUST GO.
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