13 July 2021
In recent days, we have seen a significant rise in COVID cases here in Jersey.
When we spoke to you during a press conference on Sunday 4th July, we shared new guidance for direct contacts, and we explained then that the changes to our isolation rules would lead to a rise in cases. And that is what has happened.
As I shared in a video message last night, I know that this rise will be making some of you feel concerned. But please let me reassure you that while this is a developing situation, it is one that we are monitoring very, very closely.
The pandemic has been, and continues to be, managed in a way which is proportionate to the risk and at all times we are mindful of all the impacts and consequences.
STAC, Public Health officials and Competent Authority Ministers all met yesterday, to consider the measures that we have in place and the collective wellbeing of Islanders.
Following these meetings, we are updating our guidance and extending measures to keep Islanders safe this summer.
Following the increasing cases of COVID-19, Ministers have agreed a further pause to Stage 7 of Jersey's Reconnection Roadmap until XXX when a decision will be made based on the latest position.
Ministers had every intention to proceed with the remainder of Stage 7 Reconnection, and it is with regret that we're not in the position to enable full reconnection at this point in time. But it is the right thing to do.
We had originally agreed for an additional 10 days to allow for more Islanders to receive first and second doses of the vaccine, and while vaccination rates are increasing day on day, we are also seeing increased cases, especially in younger Islanders.
While we are seeing cases of COVID-19 increasing, our focus is repositioned in the context of vaccination coverage, with our hospitalisation rates and risk of severe illness remaining low, which is the position we must maintain this summer.
We therefore should not risk reopening high-risk settings, such as night clubs, where we know COVID-19 is more likely to spread among the younger, unvaccinated population and then potentially into our more vulnerable Islanders.
Ministers will continue to review the current position and work with STAC and Public Health to provide an update when we can.
To mitigate the spread of COVID within workplaces, protect workforces and to ensure business continuity, Ministers are also advising Islanders to continue working from home wherever possible.
If you're unsure of the specific rules regarding your workplace, please speak to your employer.
And we're asking employers to consider what you can do to help to prevent the spread of COVID within your workplace.
We would like employers to take any operational measures they think is appropriate to limit spread in their workforce and in the Island.
At the same time, everyone should be thinking on how to keep workspaces clean and well ventilated, and ensuring you and your colleagues practice the enhanced hygiene measures we are all familiar with.
I know that the last few weeks have been particularly challenging for our schools and I would like to pay tribute to all children, young people, their parents and carers and all our school, college and nursery staff for their extraordinary efforts this year and especially at this challenging time.
Over the last week we have listened to concerns by parents, staff working with children and young people, particularly younger members of staff who haven't yet had the chance to be fully vaccinated.
As a result of this we have issued new advice today to schools and colleges for their final few days of the academic year that makes it clear that children should not attend school if there is a COVID case in their home.
This would include if a parent/carer or sibling of that child or young person, or anyone living in their home, has tested positive.
Headteachers can also make a decision to close a class or year group until the end of term if there is the likelihood of rapid and widespread infection occurring, resulting in the further and significant absence in both children and staff. Online learning will be provided.
This doesn't mean that children should be isolating in their rooms if they are not in school. In order to ensure their mental health and wellbeing is supported, they should be able to enjoy fresh air outside with adult supervision where possible under the current public health guidelines.
The CYPES Department will continue to meet with the STAC and Public Health colleagues, headteachers, the Children's Commissioner and Trades Unions to work on the plans for a safe and sustained return to schools and colleges in September.
I know that the delay to the Stage 7 reconnection will be disappointing to a number of Islanders, but it is an important pause which will allow us more time to vaccinate younger Islanders.
The vaccination programme has proven incredibly important in protecting more vulnerable Islanders and those over 60. This has been demonstrated in the current rise in cases as, although all age groups have seen an increase, there has been a marked distinction between the rise in cases amongst older age groups and the much sharper increase in cases amongst younger age groups.
We are seeing a rise in cases, and we must not be complacent. I hope that Islanders will appreciate that our announcements today strikes a balance between the increase in people testing positive but also the reduction in severity and lower hospitalisation rate that we have seen in recent weeks.
I also want to echo what the Health Minister has just said. We all have a duty to take personal responsibility in our actions and to limit the risks that we take. Taking that extra time or thought, that added precaution might make all the difference to keeping not only yourself but also those around you safe.
So, I ask you to remain calm. We remain in a good position.
While we are seeing more islanders with COVID, vaccinations are working, and more and more Islanders are getting their vaccines every day. We are seeing that symptoms generally remain mild, and Islanders who are in hospital remain few.
We are learning to live with COVID in our lives and it is important during these uncertain times that we stay the course and work together as a community to care for and protect each other. Our togetherness, combined with the vaccine, remains our best defence against the pandemic and will keep us safer this summer.
Again, I want to thank all islanders for continuing to adhere to the guidance issued by Public Health officials, and for your continued support in acting in the best interest of the Island.