We have one last chance to avoid unnecessary deaths, the Chief Minister has said, in his strongest message yet to islanders this winter.
Stressing that the island was on the “cusp of a lockdown”, Senator John Le Fondré told a press conference last night, which attracted more than 7,000 viewers online, that people would die if islanders did not change their behaviour.
And he told people who have flouted the covid rules - evidenced by a surge in cases over the weekend traced to parties in a hotel and other venues - to “mend their ways."
Illustrating this impact, the Government has confirmed to Express the details of three recent events that led to a significant number of people having to isolate: 627 children and adults linked to one event at a hospitality venue, 229 people at another, and 529 islanders traced back to a single party.
That makes a total of 1,385 people having to isolate because of just three gatherings.
Pictured: The Chief Minister and Health Minister at yesterday's conference.
The Chief Minister said: “I do not want to put islanders under the mental trauma of lockdown, or to unnecessarily separate the high-risk from their families over Christmas.
“The measures we are mandating today [including mask-wearing in shops] will protect our most high-risk and prevent a second lockdown – If they are followed properly and consistently.
“I know it is difficult. For everyone. We are a sociable community and restricting our contact with one-another goes against our very nature. But we must do this now if we want to prevent exponential growth in cases, and a real risk to our healthcare services and to islanders’ lives.
“If we don’t do this now, freedoms will be lost. Livelihoods will be lost. And lives will be lost.
“I want islanders to be under no illusion. We are on the cusp of a lockdown.
“The current trend needs only continue to make that happen."
Video: The press conference.
He continued: "And I know I have been criticised for failing to speak plainly in the past. So, I want to be clear.
“I am more than disappointed with the behaviour of some. Like many islanders, I am absolutely furious at anyone in our community who has recklessly and deliberately failed to follow the public health guidance.
“It flies in the face of the overwhelming majority of our community who have acted selflessly and responsibly to protect the most vulnerable.
“To those people who are still not doing enough, I say - take this final opportunity to mend your ways now. There won’t be another opportunity. Think about how your actions could harm others, including those who you care about.
“This is the last chance we all have to maintain our freedoms and avoid unnecessary deaths.”
Ministers were forced to hold a press conference last night to announce new emergency measures after the number of active cases leapt to 247 over the weekend, up from 200 on Thursday.
This tipped the total number of cases in the island since March to over 1,000, and raised the number of direct contacts of known active cases to more than 2,000, with a significant percentage of those people linked to a small number of social gatherings, including one held at the Royal Yacht Hotel a week last Friday.
Pictured: A significant percentage of people in isolation are linked to a large gathering of adults at the Royal Yacht Hotel two weeks ago.
With socialising in large numbers proving fertile turf for the spread of covid, Ministers are clear that these shouldn’t happen. New measures include recommending that people work from home if they can, even though there hasn’t been much workplace transmission in Jersey.
Rather, it is designed to stop colleagues socialising after work, where the risk is higher. It also means that Christmas parties are off the agenda.
Health Minister Richard Renouf said: “People just have to be very careful about gathering together with others. This Christmas is going to be different: it has to be.
“It will be far quieter than what we’re used to and unless you’ve got a really good reason to go out and socialise with a large crowd of people, you just shouldn’t. Think and act responsibly and try to keep away from gatherings of people.”
Senator Le Fondré added: “The virus is in our community and you can catch it and you won’t know you’ve got it necessarily. When it comes to distancing, gatherings and hygiene, please act responsibly.
“If we do all act responsibly, we can avoid a lockdown; if we don’t, then the likelihood is that lockdown will have to be implemented.”
The medic leading the island's response to the pandemic, Dr Ivan Muscat, followed the Ministers, explaining that there had been 81 cases of unknown source since September.
In November alone, 38 single cases were identified, six of these were linked to transmission within households, 15 were described as 'small clusters' (2-5 cases), and 13 were 'large clusters' (5+ cases).
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