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"We need to stop testing people to the level we are"

Wednesday 21 July 2021

"We need to stop testing people to the level we are"


Hospitality is on the brink of collapse again and a radical rethink of covid policy placing less emphasis on testing and more on symptoms and hospital admissions is needed if the Government doesn’t want to lose it for good, the industry’s boss has warned.

As covid numbers topped 3,000 yesterday, many cafés, restaurants and takeaways were closed due to virus cases in the already Brexit-hit workforce - and Jersey Hospitality Association Head Simon Soar fears there’ll be many more to come.

“We’re facing risks left, right and centre at the moment. We surveyed [around 100 JHA members] at the end of last week to find out the state of play. 

“Out of those surveyed, over 50% had staff off currently because of covid. 81% of those with staff off had had to reduce their offering – whether service times or menus.

“Furthermore, 7% are closed – they simply don’t have the staff to operate and that could get worse.”

Simon_Soar_pic4.jpg

Pictured: Jersey Hospitality Association Head Simon Soar.

He added: “We did an average of all the businesses who had responded and, bearing in mind these are large hotels to small operations, out of all of them, there was an average of four members of staff off.”

Mr Soar said there were also concerns about the survival of hotels, which, unlike food venues, cannot simply shut overnight – “they have a duty of care to their guests.”

But the key issue, he said, was that “most fed back that the staff off are asymptomatic or have such mild symptoms that, had this been another time, it would not have been an issue.”

Mr Soar said he found it “terrifying” to see the Government apparently reversing from its “living with covid” mantra, with masks having returned as a legal requirement today and Ministers currently discussing introducing further restrictions.

“We’ve all put our arms on the line and got the vaccine, we’ve all done everything we can to be part of the movement out of this,” he said.

“Personally, would I have got a vaccine with little clinical trial time? I did it as I saw it as for the greater good of the island; we can restart our economy, good is going to come out of this.

“We have all stepped up and lots of people who don’t necessarily agree with it have done it with the rationale, ‘Let’s get back our island to where it was.””

General Hospital

Pictured: Simon Soar believes we should pay more attention to hospitalisation rates.

To his mind, the solution lies in a radical rethink of the island’s covid strategy, which involves mass testing, including the hospitality workforce, which undergoes lateral flow testing every week. He previously suggested direct contacts should only be tested if symptomatic.

“We need to stop testing people to the level we are – it is far too high.

“Personally, I think if people are really not well, you should test and treat them accordingly. But there are people out there who are completely asymptomatic. The whole point of the vaccine is about reducing the impact of what covid does to you… That’s why we were told to do it.”

Mr Soar further argued that more attention must be paid to hospitalisation rates. There are currently 12 people with covid there currently – far lower than during the second wave of covid.

“It’s a completely different scenario [than in the second wave], and yet they’re treating it in the same way.”

Introducing new restrictions or maintaining the status quo, Mr Soar said, risked putting the industry, which is already in a “precarious position”, through a “fourth winter” and inflicting “permanent damage” on the sector and economy.

This, he said, could also hit the island’s connectivity.

“Do you enjoy being able to fly to different places?... We will be severely restricted in flights… Watch the cost of them rise.”

The JHA is currently in discussions with the Government about potential future support, which Mr Soar declined to comment on.

Payroll_money.jpg

Pictured: The JHA Head said the Co-Funded Payroll Scheme, which is due to expire at the end of August, is far from adequate.

He noted, however, that the current Co-Funded Payroll Scheme, which is due to expire at the end of August, is far from adequate.

“At most, it’s 80%, and it’s very optimistic to say that the support hits the level. If you’re not making any money and paying 20% of costs, after two years, where do you find the money for that? This isn’t about wealth – this is about survival.”

Further rebutting any suggestion that he was arguing for “wealth over health”, he went on to explain that business difficulties can lead to mental health difficulties for some individuals.

Mr Soar further emphasised that the difficulties caused by asymptomatic individuals being forced to quarantine were being felt outside of hospitality – and said he was concerned that such impacts could hit the island’s critical infrastructure.

“What if some of our Emergency services end up with too many cases and they can’t sustain themselves? At what point do we turn around and say, we’ve a very stark situation?”

The Government has always maintained that its covid strategy has been about maintaining a “balance of harms”.

Mr Soar said he felt this wasn’t the case at all.

“There is no balance on our side of things, there is no understanding of what they are about to lose.”

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Posted by ShaneFitzpatrick13 on
Well said . I for one had the vaccine in order to try to speed things up and get back to normality and am sure many others are the same . A voice of reason
Posted by ElaineMalia92 on
Well said Mr Soar this government needs to get a grip as their current strategy of managing the current Covid situation is a complete shambles.
Posted by J Smith on
We got into this shambles because our government did pretty much what the hospitality sector wanted. It's ironic that it has all backfired.
Posted by Donal Dolo on
The world health association says different who is more qualified here
Posted by Angie Belcher on
I think this is a stupid idea as many people are very ill with Covid. What about asymptomatic people spreading it all over the place. Vaccination does not equal no deaths. People will still be ill we will also pass it on. Are you suggesting these people just carry on working in care homes etc and kill off your loved ones?
Posted by SteveRead95 on
Mr Soar states that feedback from the industry claims most staff off are asymptomatic, what’s interesting about this wave of COVID is that the vast majority are symptomatic- see App - a complete reversal from previous waves. To test less is reckless and not based on any scientific analysis. It was relaxing the rules too rapidly that has given Jersey one of the highest affection rates.
Posted by IanSmith97 on
What is the alternative to an open society? Lockdowns do not work. Just look at Australia. On and off they have been isolated via closed borders for well over 18 months now. Their vaccination rate is abysmally low. Major Australian cities and half the population are locked down completely again. The disease keeps cropping up despite constant lockdowns. This disease/virus has to be lived with. Let those who want to shield from the rest of society do so and let the rest of us get on with our lives, risks and all. Life is for living, not existing by cowering away. Someone in power should lay the facts on the line, if we don’t get back to normal life and economic activity there will be no money. No money to pay for healthcare, education, policing, infrastructure, furlough pay, the lot. It’s about time society faced up to this fact. The ‘working from home’ brigade (or living at the office as I call it) are going to have a shock coming. Do they not realise that their bosses will see offices are not necessary and if offices are not necessary then staff can be based anywhere and not just in your house in Jersey. That means highly trained and English language literate foreign staff off Island can do your jobs. And at half the price no doubt. Don’t think so? A big shock is coming.
Posted by SteveRead95 on
I would add to my earlier comment, it’s not just the absence of staff that may be affecting the hospitality industry - I was attending a dinner for six at a local restaurant on Friday we cancelled because of infection rates and I am aware in my immediate circular another booking of four for the same reason. The numbers will deter people not just because a particular establishment is closed.
Posted by Pam Evans on
I don’t think I would like to stay in a hotel or eat in a restaurant if I thought that some of the staff possibly had Covid, therefore possibly passing it on to me and my family. We cannot hide these statistics by ignoring them.
Posted by James Neal on
I understand the frustration in the hospitality sector, but its not just hospitality that is going through this, everyone is. As Mr Soar says, its not about wealth. Well unfortunately if you dig down to the bones, it is about wealth. Just because someone in hospitality says we should reduce testing (to basically put our heads in the sand), does not mean testing should be reduced, its already been reduced enough due to the test and trace system not being able to cope.

There is also long COVID to think about, its not just about deaths. Long COVID can be really bad, absolutely debilitating. Long COVID could have serious consequences for years to come for the economy of Jersey through employment and the health sector, that must be taken in to account just as much as everything else.

Asymptomatic can still spread COVID. Double vaccinated can get COVID, and they can still die from COVID, even with a vaccine, COVID is still a threat. I would say holidays are a little down the line when it comes to peoples health and wellbeing.
Posted by Simon Berry on
Can this be re-set without a lockdown?
Posted by Keith Marsh on
Does Simon Soar not realise, that people will stay away from the very places he is trying to protect, IF the public believes that Government policy, is hiding the truth about the severity of this virus on our Island.
Posted by Gillian Gracia on
Sorry Mr Soar, but hospitality is not the only thing suffering in this Island, much as you would like to think it is. Borders were opened up to let visitors flock in, and now look. That aside, many small businesses have had to close due to restrictions, so we will weep for them, as well not just hospitality. Place the blame fairly and squarely where it belongs - on our 'Government' who seem intent on bringing in the punters and spenders and 'sod' the ordinary folk.
Posted by John Smith on
This is a joke now. Let everyone get on with their lives. If you choose to lock yourself in your house then fine, but let the rest of us get on with life. I am amazed some people manage to cross the road themselves.
Posted by Fiona Bell on
Or maybe we should increase covid testing -including lateral flow tests- more widely in the island to tackle the problem?
Posted by Peter Richardson on
I completely agree with Ian Smith 97 and his comment. We have to live with this virus and its consequences. We have to accept we will all get it sooner or later and our vaccination will be tested. We cant lockdown for ever and destroy our economies due to the twin mantras of fear and safety. We need to get control of rising infection figures and currently that should mean some more restrictions, but minimal and just enough to bring cases down to hundreds not thousands. Allowing travel in such an unrestricted way has brought the virus in to the community. The obsession with travel has to curtail. That is the new normal.
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