Blood tests on arrival and only allowing passengers to travel to Jersey if they have a ‘negative certificate’ are among plans being drawn up by a senior medics as a replacement for compulsory 14-day quarantine.
The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) has been discussing how the Government could allow for freer movement in and out of the island and rapid PCR testing, which shows if an individual has the virus, is showing a lot of potential.
Dr Susan Turnbull, the Medical Officer for Health, sits on the committee along with Dr Ivan Muscat, Dr Patrick Armstrong and several other senior doctors and scientists.
Video: Dr Susan Turnbull, the Medical Officer for Health, joined the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré and the Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf for the press conference.
Today, she confirmed following a question by Express that they had been devising “a safe alternative method” to the 14-day isolation requirement that is currently in place, and which the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, confirmed will be in place “for the foreseeable future”.
The proposal STAC has been discussing is the possibility of having PCR tests done upon arrival at the airport, with results being returned within 24 hours. Travellers would be told to self-isolate as they await the results of their test.
If it is negative, they would be able to carry on as normal, but if the test returns a positive result, they would have to follow the Government’s guidance for infected persons.
Travellers would have the option to choose between the blood test and self-isolation.
Pictured: Dr Susan Turnbull, the Medical Officer for Health, speaking at yesterday's conference.
Dr Turnbull said that STAC has also been discussing having a second test done four days after the arrival.
Describing the PCR test as “a snapshot of whether the infection has developed at that date”, she explained that someone could be exposed to the virus a day or two before they travel without returning a positive result to the PCR test.
Another option would be for travellers to get tested before they get on their plane to Jersey. Dr Turnbull this idea was quite attractive, as it would avoid the process on arrival and prevent further infections from taking place on planes.
“We have discussed a bit further as to the feasibility of asking people to have a PCR test done for instance in the UK because people can go online and book their own tests and would come with a certificate to show that they were negative,” Dr Turnbull said.
“The added advantage of that would be that you would not be having infections people getting on airplanes, for instance. Because if that did happen there would be the issue about contact tracing of people who may have been in close contact during the flight.”
Pictured: Travellers could still choose to self-isolate upon arrival.
Dr Turnbull said STAC agreed it would be “reasonable and feasible” to find a safe way to allow movement in and out of the island without travellers having to self-isolate for 14 days, which she said the committee recognised is a “barrier” to commercial operators resuming their flights and sailings.
Alan Merry, PoJ's Executive Strategy and Development Director, told Express last week that some providers may choose not to fly to the island if quarantine for new arrivals remained compulsory.
“Companies will start operations when they have a fair chance of passengers flying; it has to be economically viable for them,” he explained.
“If somebody travels to the UK and there is a 14-day isolation, there will be a limited number wanting to buy tickets. This is pretty critical in enabling the restart of travel.
“All we can do is make sure we are taking every possible step to make sure passengers are safe.”
Dr Turnbull said: “Our advice is that there’s very good potential for a feasible alternative method of arriving in Jersey that is safe for the population of Jersey but is also based on one blood test and possibly two.”
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