The Chief Minister has promised an update to islanders on testing today, as questions rapidly mount over why more people aren’t being examined for covid-19 and the island’s delay in setting up its own facility.
It comes as Guernsey’s Chief Minister effectively ruled out pan-island collaboration on testing until further notice.
There has been no update on the number of patients officially confirmed to have the potentially fatal virus in Jersey since Monday (81), with 149 tests pending at the latest count.
Meanwhile, Guernsey has this week got its own facility up and running, having successfully identified a ‘cluster’ of patients within a family and another at a local nursing home facility. Its number of confirmed cases now stands at 91.
1/1 The latest update, as of Tuesday 31 March at 7pm:— Government of Jersey (@GovJersey) March 31, 2020
748 confirmed negative
81 confirmed positive
2 people who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have sadly died.
Overall test results are published as soon as they are available. pic.twitter.com/BpOrQWJ1y1
Guernsey’s lab can process up to 40 samples a day, but officials said it will be able to increase this “as more reagent, the chemicals needed to run the test, arrives on-island”.
It also retains an agreement with a laboratory in Colindale, which has agreed to process 35 samples daily.
Jersey’s Chief Minister had previously expressed hopes that the island might be able to share its facilities with Guernsey - but Guernsey’s Chief Minister, Deputy Gavin St. Pier, made it clear last night that this was likely some time away.
He told Express: “We’ve said, on a political level and at the Medical Officer of Health level, that we’re happy to support Jersey to the extent that we can - that’s probably quite an important caveat in the context of access to some of the reagents and so on.
“Clearly, the priority is going to have to be meeting our own community’s needs, but the lines of communication are very firmly open and will remain open. We will do what we can to help.”
Guernsey now says it is now making steps forward in antibody testing - a type of test establishing who has had the virus and is now immune.
It has been described as a “game changer” by leaders across the globe, as it will help establish who is safely able to return to work and contribute to the economy.
Pictured: Guernsey can process 40 samples a day at its facility.
"We have been told it is three to four weeks off being available, then we have to procure the products,” Guernsey’s Public Health head, Dr Nicola Brink, said yesterday.
"We are appraising different antibody tests, looking at various suppliers and we want to know their performance, their sensitivity and their specificity."
In a press conference on Monday, Jersey’s Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, said the island was still a few weeks away from setting up its own facility, but did not explain the significant lag behind Guernsey.
He said that the island was “actively pursuing” securing antibody tests, and that 5,000 testing kits were due to arrive on-island this week, predominantly aimed at checking healthcare professionals. However, it remains unclear how many will be available for testing other symptomatic islanders, and whether more are on order.
It is also unclear whether - like PPE equipment - Jersey receives a quantity of NHS stock or whether tests and equipment are being procured independently.
Express has asked for clarification from the government, and has not received a response.
Video: The Chief Minister has promised islanders will receive an update on testing today.
Until a local facility can be established, Jersey remains reliant on a laboratory based in hard-hit London, where high demand has led to delays of up to five days in processing results.
The delays propelled the decision to put the island into lockdown, with the Health Minister explaining on Sunday night: “When we don’t receive these results, we do not know what effect our measures are having… Without timely results showing us what social distancing is doing to the spread of the infection, there is a risk that the measures are not working as well as they could.
"And we will not risk lives.”
But, beyond simply keeping up with demand, the UK has been facing its own difficulties with testing.
The UK government had set the target of testing 25,000 people each day, but daily testing numbers still only stood around 8,000 at the end of March.
Pictured: The UK has fallen short of its testing targets due to lack of resources.
Lack of resources and access to the necessary chemicals has largely been blamed for the difficulties in ramping up testing, as the UK had not stockpiled test kits like South Korea, where mass testing has been undertaken.
Public Health England initially only had access to eight labs.
This has now been expanded to 40 NHS labs, while private laboratories are now being drafted in to help.
Following criticism of the pace of ramping up testing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson conceded last night that mass testing would “eventually unlock the puzzle of coronavirus”.
Until these issues can be resolved, or Jersey establishes its own testing facility, the difficulties will continue to have a knock-on impact on the island.
This pressure comes on top of increasing calls for the island to change its testing criteria, which predominantly revolves around travel history, contact with known infected persons and risk profile.
As covid-19 continues to spread in the community, scores of islanders have taken to social media, complaining that they have symptoms of the virus, but have been denied a test to confirm if they have it.
Others are suggesting that the symptoms considered (dry cough, fever and headache) should be broadened to include loss of taste and smell.
Scientists at King’s College London this week said this could be one of the best ways of identifying the illness, based on research from 1.8million people who logged their symptoms via an app.
In an unscheduled statement delivered last night, the Chief Minister pledged to update islanders on covid-19 testing today.
Dr Ivan Muscat, who is leading the island's response to the pandemic, is scheduled to provide a press conference at 11:30, which you can watch HERE.
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