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EXPRESS OPINION: Share the plan for lockdown end

EXPRESS OPINION: Share the plan for lockdown end

Thursday 09 April 2020

EXPRESS OPINION: Share the plan for lockdown end


Now do you see why Ministers didn't order us into lockdown any earlier?

Despite the cacophony of panicked calls in mid-March for the island to be shut down, or the Chief Minister to be kicked out, they rightly waited until the very end of the month, coming up to two weeks ago - with at least another 21 days of 'home work' still to go.

The likelihood is that we will still need to stay at home into May too, while the local testing regime here is expanded -  that only began in earnest today, which essentially means Ministers so far have been working blindfolded, making decisions on incomplete and out-of-date infection rate data.

Even though we are now a month on since the first 'official' CI case was publicly announced, we still have absolutely no idea how many islanders have the virus, or have already fought it off. That lack of data means we still estimating the effect of this horrible bug, using theoretical models based on the experience elsewhere, and applying the arbitrary 10x rule, which says that for every case which tests positive, there are probably 10 times that number in the community. Probably. Maybe. 

That lack of accurate data is the main reason behind the near total economic clampdown, with the concomitant effects on local livelihoods, and the need for the Government to spend our money to support us. The fact that the value of our reserves has been hit by the global crisis has meant that the Government is now seriously considering borrowing to fund the measures it has promised to support the economy - borrowing which can only be repaid by taxpayers in the coming years.

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Pictured: Economic projections from Jersey's Fiscal Policy Panel.

The chance of GST remaining at 5% next year seems as remote as a straight factual answer from some of our senior officials. 

But one of the aspects of this crisis which is striking is that from January onwards, it swept like wave heading west across the whole world, engulfing country by country as it went, with the February half-term break acting as the final gush onto our shores. The fact we are not the first to be swept up by it also means it is possible to see a little way, tentatively, into the future. 

At some point soon, presumably, we will be able to carry out all testing in Jersey. That will give us a clearer idea of the local severity. You might imagine that information will then give Ministers the ability to selectively release the 'stay at home' restrictions, and get some life back into the economy, such as happened further to the east. 

That planning work MUST be now underway, building on lessons from other countries. If it isn't, then any future public enquiry into how this crisis has been managed (which would be an essential part of our recovery) will be damning. 

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Pictured: What's the plan for ending lockdown?

As individuals, we are all seeking good information on this virus, which might help us protect ourselves and our loved ones (I was upset that drinking whisky apparently has no effect, as the alcohol content isn't sufficient - that was one bit of 'fake news' I could have bought into). 

Accurate information, real knowledge, is a very powerful protection, and it's interesting to note that with more information available to us we seem actually less, rather than more, informed. Look at Facebook. Actually, don't.  

But where the Government can really help is by publishing its plans for the short and medium term, now. Having carefully planned when to issue the order to 'stay at home', it is inconceivable that they haven't planned for how to also release the community from lockdown.

So tell us. Share the information. Let us know how it will happen. Allow us to plan. Give us the confidence that comes from seeing the road ahead, and being able to prepare ourselves, our families, and our businesses for it. 

The quicker the community and the economy recovers, the cheaper it will be for the Government (for taxpayers), so arm us now with the information about how 'lockdown' ends.

We can wait for it to happen, we are strong; but we can also spend our time productively making sure we are ready for the next stage, planning for how to make sure any recession is short-lived. If we know the plan. 

Now is the time to be open, to make transparency more than just a throwaway sound-bite.

With businesses failing, and people getting sick, it is what this community deserves.  

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