The Chief Minister urged islanders to "remain calm" and hinted at continuing restrictions last night, as the number of people in Jersey with covid hit 1,399, with five in hospital.
Emergency meetings of STAC, Competent Authorities Ministers and Public Health officials were held yesterday evening, as the island's test and trace system neared collapse once more.
The full Council of Ministers has been meeting this morning to discuss how to deal with Jersey's rapidly rising covid case numbers. The Chief Minister and Health Minister are due to appear at a press conference later today to "announce guidance to staying safe this summer."
It's believed that Thursday's planned 'Freedom Day' - the lifting of final restrictions on stand-up drinking, nightclubs and private gatherings - will no longer be able to go ahead.
Over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 454 new cases were identified.
Of those, 241 people were contact traced, 160 were people feeling unwell and seeking healthcare, 34 were inbound travellers, 16 were picked up via workforce screening, and three via admissions screening.
8,659 people are direct contacts. Following a recent covid policy update, they do not need to isolate provided they agree to testing and do not develop symptoms or return a positive result.
Pictured: Case numbers in the current (third) wave of covid are higher than the second wave.
The case peak and direct contact numbers are now higher than during the autumn-winter wave, although the number of people in hospital remains lower. According to Government statistics, no one has died in the most recent wave.
The latest report on Jersey's R rate showed that the virus is spreading exponentially, with one person infecting around two others on average.
In a video update released last night, the Chief Minister said that the "developing situation" as being monitored "very very closely" and kept under review.
Senator Le Fondré did not address speculation that the planned lifting of final covid restrictions on Thursday may no longer go ahead, but said: “We will come back to you in the coming days to let you know of any more decisions on whether we need to do more as a community.”
He acknowledged the latest statistics may be "alarming" for some, but urged islanders to "remain calm", and reminded them to view them in the context of Jersey having the highest testing rates in Europe.
As part of today's statistics, the Chief Minister provides an update on the Island's current position. pic.twitter.com/zppkSwCFzH— Government of Jersey (@GovJersey) July 12, 2021
The island’s 14-day case rate per 100,000 people is 1,245.83 – higher than any European country.
He also emphasised that infections were primarily affecting those under 39 years old - a cohort in which he said the "chance of severe illness is lowest."
Senator Le Fondré also pointed out that more than half of the island's population was fully vaccinated, and that those with both jabs were less likely to become severely ill.
Pictured: Current covid stats split by age group. (GoJ)
“We are all learning to live with covid in our lives and I want to thank you for your continued patience cooperation and commitment as we see our island through the final stages of the pandemic,” he concluded.
The update comes after Express reported yesterday that the test and trace system is once again struggling to cope under the pressure of rising cases, with islanders are facing long waits on the helpline and having difficulties in booking tests.
Pictured: Extreme pressure on the contact tracing team led to the change in direct contact policy, allowing them to leave isolation.
Many islanders have reported that they have been told they are direct contacts by individuals they know to have tested positive, but sometimes had to wait more than 24 hours to be contacted by the contact tracing team.
Blasting the Government's approach, Senator Sam Mézec said yesterday afternoon on Twitter: "This situation is a shambles.
"The government should well have predicted that cases would go up when they opened the borders, and clearly didn't account for it, allowing the system to get overwhelmed, and now risking causing havoc in the economy they were trying to protect."
4/ This situation is a shambles. The government should well have predicted that cases would go up when they opened the borders, and clearly didn't account for it, allowing the system to get overwhelmed, and now risking causing havoc in the economy they were trying to protect.— Senator Sam Mézec (@SamMezecJsy) July 12, 2021
Last week, Senator Le Fondré said that around 30 staff were being added to the team to deal with the rising case loads.
Senator Kristina Moore previously called for an online test booking solution to help ease test and trace pressures, but those calls have so far gone without response.
Schools have also been badly affected.
According to statistics released by the Government to Express yesterday afternoon, more staff and students have been hit by covid this term than during the island’s previous case peak in autumn.
356 individuals – 325 pupils and 41 staff – have tested positive for the illness since half-term. Over a four-week period during the second wave, 198 pupils were infected and 31 staff.
Current attendance levels have dipped to 79.7% in secondary schools and 91.1% in primary schools.
Grainville, which described its staffing levels as "critical" in an email to parents and guardians yesterday, is planning to close to two different year groups today and tomorrow. Trinity and La Moye are also having to close classes due to the high levels of covid in year groups. Express understands possible closures at other schools are also being discussed.
In the most recent relaxations to Jersey’s covid measures, Ministers were clear that the intention was to move to a place where the island could “live with covid” in order to keep the economy buoyant.
However, many businesses are now having to close or scale back their operations as a result of the high case numbers.
New Era Veterinary Hospital has had to reschedule some of its routine procedures and appointments as three vets have contracted covid.
Several local cafés and restaurants have also been forced to close until further notice due to staff shortages as a result of covid cases.
Others have stopped short of closure, instead having to reduce their service.
Meanwhile, Deputy Carina Alves reported on Twitter that she was aware of a direct flight from Jersey to a green destination that had been cancelled, reporting that: “Pilots and cabin crew don’t want to risk coming because of our numbers.” Express has asked for clarification on which one and is awaiting a reply.
Been told a direct flight from Jersey to a green destination has been cancelled, pilots & cabin crew don't want to risk coming because of our numbers - I told the health Minister on Thursday our numbers were an embarrassment to the island & would effect us in more ways..— Deputy Carina Alves (Reform Jersey) (@DeputyAlves) July 13, 2021
The business closures come as Jersey nears the end of the Co-funded Payroll Scheme, which will finish at the end of August.
In the midst of the second wave of the pandemic in December, more than 1,500 businesses were paid £7.6m.
Under the banner of “keep Jersey in business”, the Government has been encouraging organisations to take part in its lateral flow testing regime.
Whether you’re a business owner or employee, you can register to receive lateral flow tests by visiting https://t.co/DuR64JuhjE. With results in just 20-30 minutes, you can feel confident you’re keeping your staff and customers as safe as possible from COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/RX0x3NdWrV— Government of Jersey (@GovJersey) July 13, 2021
STAC and Competent Authorities Ministers were locked in talks about the next steps forward yesterday afternoon.
Today, the full Council of Ministers is meeting at 10:15, with a covid update scheduled for 12:00. A press conference will be taking place at 16:00 and live-streamed on social media.
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