Medics are considering whether university students could be exempted from quarantine when they return to the island, after some raised concerns about the “unfairness” of the changes changes in isolation policy.
People classed as direct contacts of a covid case no longer have to isolate, as long as they are taking part in the testing programme and do not have symptoms, the Government announced at a press conference hastily organised on Sunday evening.
The announcement came after the contact tracing system was put under severe pressure this week due to the high number of arriving passengers, the number of direct contacts and a technical problem with the software used. There were also long waiting times on the covid hotline as a result.
Local students and their families received the latest announcement with disappointment. Many said they felt the change had created an unfair system, as students returning to the island from the UK are still expected to isolate despite the changes - even if they had come from a zone with a lower covid case rate than Jersey.
Pictured: Some students have been isolating several times throughout the year.
Nicki Heath, who is part of the Student Loan Support Group, explained that many students have been isolating several times throughout the year due to living in shared accommodation, with no support from their family and sometimes only little help from their university.
“Given that Government have removed restrictions for contact tracing expressing that it is unfair on school children they ought to have considered the university students in the same way, they have been experiencing this far longer than the children in schools here have, and under much more difficult circumstances,” she said.
“They will after all be tested on arrival, regardless if they have symptoms or not, have been testing in their universities several times a week, have likely had one vaccine dose, and be far less risk to the community than anyone else who has not been vaccinated.
“Yet still they have to isolate unlike those here who do not, they can move freely around whilst waiting for a result.
“Until we know what the infection rate here will rise to, and it will do, it’s wrong to say that areas in the UK have a higher rate, there are also areas with lower rates.”
Speaking to Express this morning, Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré confirmed that the Government's scientific advisers - known as the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) - has been asked to look at the situation.
Pictured: The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré.
“The key issue particularly with significant parts of the cohorts we’ve been looking at, a whole host of people on the direct contacts are under-18,” he said.
“Obviously, university students aren’t fully adults. We are also recognising that individually they have not all had, or a lot of them have not had, a particularly great year because of all the isolation requirements they’ve had to go through at different times.
“So we fully and very sympathetically recognise the frustrations that they are having to deal with. As I said, on that particular one, we want to hear back from the medics on what their view is. It’s very much around balance of risk, balance of harms.”
While STAC generally meet on a Monday, the Chief Minister said they may need further time to look at the issue and couldn’t confirm when students could expect a decision.
Ms Heath said the group had heard about STAC meetings on more than one occasion “without any outcome”.
“We sincerely hope that they take into account the very different and difficult situation students have had to face, and whilst studying in less than ideal conditions away from home isolating in a bedroom, compared to those that are coming here on a holiday,” she said.
“If you think about it, having spent 60 days in a bedroom, and one I can think of recently is on their third successive isolation period, 30 days and facing yet another 10 on arrival home, despite being vaccinated, you can fully understand why they think the situation is now more unfair.”
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