Ministers have stepped up the border testing regime again in response to the Omicron variant threat – but decided against making masks compulsory in public spaces.
From Friday, all passengers arriving in Jersey who have been in countries outside the Common Travel Area – the UK, Ireland and Crown Dependencies - will have to take a PCR test at the border and isolate until their result.
The new rule applies regardless of vaccination status or previous infection history.
Competent Authority Ministers – the group legally responsible for emergency decision-making in Jersey – made the decisions at a crunch meeting last night in response to growing international concern about the newly-identified Omicron variant.
Omicron (B.1.1.529) is the most heavily mutated variant of covid yet, and it’s feared that it may be more transmissible and less receptive to the vaccine.
It has not yet been detected in Jersey, but the Government announced in a press conference this afternoon that it will be sending more positive covid tests for sequencing, particularly those of inbound travellers.
If anyone tests positive for the Omicron variant, their direct contacts will be asked to isolate for at least 10 days and undergo enhanced testing, with a PCR on day 0 and day 10, and lateral flow tests every day inbetween.
"Like Delta, we do expect this variant to reach us," Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf said.
Today, Ministers also called for organisers of Christmas parties and festive gatherings to check the covid status of attendees using proof of recent lateral flow tests.
Mask use remains “strongly recommended” in Jersey, but has not been mandated in public spaces or in schools, as education unions had called for. They remain compulsory at the ports and on public transport, however.
In contrast, students and staff in Guernsey schools and colleges have been told they must wear face coverings in communal areas from today, and from tomorrow (Wednesday 1 December), face masks are to become mandatory in most public settings. The UK Government has also mandated mask use.
Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that Jersey would be following UK vaccine experts' latest advice, and extending the option of a third dose of the covid vaccine to 18 to 39-year-olds.
The island will also be offering a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to all 12 to 15-year-olds no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose, and a fourth dose to all severely immunosuppressed individuals no sooner than three months after their third dose, in line with advice issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) today.
Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré said that the Government's measures for keeping covid under control would be kept "under regular review over the coming weeks to ensure they are proportionate to the changing situation."
Elsewhere in the conference, it was announced that flu vaccinations would be moving out of Fort Regent.
Dr Muscat explained: “Flu vaccination rates are now decreasing at the Fort as we work our way down the age groups. Because of this and the importance of increasing our covid vaccination rollout flu vaccination will now continue at GP surgeries and pharmacies for those who have not yet received it. By doing this, the Vaccination Centre can focus on administering covid-19 vaccines at pace, which is important in the Omicron context and as we enter the social festive season.”
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