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Source: Channel Islands – Jersey

Good afternoon,

I want to welcome everyone who is watching on social media, and all those listening live through BBC Radio Jersey and Channel 103.

My thanks to them for broadcasting this press conference, and to all the media who are including this announcement in their reports.

I’m joined today by the Deputy Chief Minister, Senator Lyndon Farnham, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, and Medical Director, Mr Patrick Armstrong.

Last week, I committed to providing Islanders and businesses with our plans for a phased and gradual safe exit from the current lockdown restrictions in Jersey.

I need to be clear that we have a long way to go, and living with Coronavirus will be a feature of our lives for some time to come. 

But today I’m going to give details about how we expect to move towards a safe exit.

From the outset, the Government of Jersey has pursued a delay, contain and shield strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The primary goal of this strategy has been to flatten the epidemic curve. This has allowed us to protect vulnerable Islanders and save lives by making sure those requiring acute care don’t all need access to it at the same time.  

By working together as an Island community, and by following the Stay at Home guidance, we have successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19 to date, creating vital time for health and care services to prepare for the increase in infections that will still inevitably come. 

We have used this time to enhance our testing regime, to procure substantial supplies of PPE and health equipment, and to construct the Nightingale Hospital at Millbrook.  

The response of Islanders has been nothing short of excellent.

Because of your cooperation, your responsibility and your community spirit we have seen the epidemic curve flattened, the number of cases significantly contained, and a network of volunteers established to support our most vulnerable for when we will need them most.  

Thank you, and thank you for the many sacrifices that you have made. 

You should be incredibly proud of the way you have acted to protect our Island and our community.

It may be hard for some to imagine, but the lockdown measures introduced in Jersey have been less extreme than in some other jurisdictions. But they have still significantly impacted our daily lives, education and businesses. 

Now Islanders and businesses want life to get back to normal.

Let’s be clear, life isn’t going to be anything like normal for a long time. 

It will still take weeks and months for us to adjust to life with COVID-19. 

But we will adjust, and we need to start to unlock. 

We are an Island that has built success on being agile and adaptable. We have done so before and we can do so again.

Coronavirus is part of our lives now, and the Island will need to incorporate preventative measures for some time; at least until a vaccine is ready.

However, our public health monitoring indicates that we can begin the careful process of relaxing the lockdown measures that are currently in place.

We are in a strong position. 

Our level of new daily cases is currently low. That’s clear from the rate of new reported cases and the rate of admissions into the General Hospital.

However, it is also likely that the majority of people in Jersey have not yet had COVID-19.  

So, when we begin to relax lockdown measures, this will mean more people will come into contact with friends, neighbours and colleagues from outside their households.

Infection rates will rise steadily, more people will contract the virus, and some of those will need hospital or intensive care.  

This is why it is absolutely essential that we follow a careful, staged approach to lifting lockdown measures. 

The Minister for Health and Social Services will set out the detail of that staged process, which will follow three distinct levels, and the Deputy Chief Minister will talk about what this means for Island businesses. 

I want to emphasise at the outset that this will be a gradual process. As we move into a new level, we will not necessarily implement all measures in that level on day one. 

We must all be patient and responsible if we fail to do so we risk a surge in COVID-19 infections, we risk exposing vulnerable Islanders to harm and potentially, that would mean needing to return to lockdown. 

I’ll now ask the Minister for Health and Social Services to talk about the detail of the Framework.

An effective vaccine for COVID-19 is unlikely to be available for some time.

But we cannot stay locked down indefinitely. 

To do so would have an extremely detrimental effect on Islanders’ mental and physical health and wellbeing, as well as severely impacting our economy which supports our health, education and welfare services.   

So we are proposing to lessen the restrictions in a safe and controlled way.

Firstly, we will scale down our delay measures, including the Stay at Home Instruction and school closures, across three carefully-calibrated levels. 

This will take many weeks, and will be done in carefully managed ways. It will be gradual and it will remain under constant review.

Secondly, we are stepping up our contain measures. We are increasing our monitoring of the virus so we can quickly identify when new cases and clusters appear. We’re significantly increasing our testing capacity, and we’re growing our contact tracing team to help control the spread when positive cases are identified.

And thirdly, we will step up our wellbeing support for the extremely vulnerable. The health service will continue to provide them with information and support, enabling them to make the right choices about how to cope, and live, as the pandemic progresses.

Scaling down our delay measures will allow greater personal freedom for the majority of Islanders, and will incrementally remove the lockdown which has become such a distinctive part of our lives in recent weeks.  

We have set out a detailed Safe Exit Framework to ensure that Islanders can understand how this will happen, and what changes are anticipated in each of the three levels. 

I must stress that progress through these levels will be informed by expert medical advice, to minimise the risk of unnecessary harm so we can balance the suppression of the virus with Islanders’ wider wellbeing. 

All the while ensuring that we have enough healthcare capacity to manage an increase in cases.

Undoubtedly we will see an increase because that is a consequence of greater movement of people. That will mean more people in hospital and, sadly, an increase in the number of deaths.

The Framework has been developed by looking at public health guidance issued by the World Health Organisation, evidence from other leading public health organisations and the plans published by other jurisdictions.

It is a map. And that means we have to go on a journey together to reach our destination. We cannot, and must not, simply lift all restrictions in one go. 

It is also not necessarily a one-way journey.

Our progress must be balanced and conditional, in order to avoid overloading our health and care services. If we see cases increase too quickly, we will need to rapidly introduce further restrictions.

I want to stress that observance of the measurers and the cooperation of Islanders is critical. If we become complacent, there is a greater risk of going back to tougher restrictions – as has been seen in other jurisdictions.

Exactly when we move through the levels, and when changes take place within each level, will depend on how quickly and how far our monitoring tells us COVID-19 is spreading through the Island, and how much pressure key health and care services are under.  

We are currently in Level Four, lockdown, with strict social distancing and the Stay at Home order in place. 

Social Distancing will remain a critically important measure in all subsequent levels. We are going to use the term ‘Physical Distancing’ in future, as it is easier to understand. We want people to be able to enjoy social interaction – but while maintaining that 2-metre physical distance.

Level Three will be a soft lockdown. The Stay Home order will be lifted, and some businesses will be able to operate. However, off-Island travel will remain tightly limited, and schools will remain closed to begin with.

In Level Two, which we are calling ‘Soft Opening’, more businesses with evidenced mitigation plans and appropriate distancing could re-open, alongside many community services. We anticipate people will begin to be able to travel off-island again, as and when commercial travel services become available.  It is likely however that they would still need to self-isolate for 14 days upon return, should they travel.

Finally, we will reach Level One, Physical Distancing. This is what many have referred to as the ‘new normal’. People will be able to gather again in private homes and most venues will be permitted to open, with strict social distancing and hygiene measures in place.
Even though we have four levels, we will be looking to move through them at a measured pace, and not all the activity within any specific level will be introduced on the first day of each stage.

The proposed details of each level will be made available on our website following this Press Conference, as well as through the media.

While we progress through the levels, we must remember that there are still people in our community, both adults and children, who have health conditions that put them at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.   

These people are extremely vulnerable to the virus. 

During the lockdown period, the Government has strongly advised the extremely vulnerable to avoid as much social contact as they can, and not leave home at all.  This advice remains in place and shielding at home must continue.   

When we begin our journey to ease restrictions, please always consider these members of our community. It is our duty to protect them by continuing to carefully follow the guidance that is in place. 

I’ll now hand over to the Deputy Chief Minister.

The question I know many Islanders are asking is ‘when will we have more freedom and when will more businesses be able to open?’

In advance, it is impossible to be certain exactly how COVID-19 will spread through our community.  

But we do want to provide as much certainty as we possibly can. The Framework being announced today provides a clear plan of the levels we will go through. 

There are two key indicators that will signal that Jersey is ready to move safely from one level into the next.

Firstly, evidence that the number of new COVID-19 cases is either rising gradually, is steady or is declining.

And second, evidence that there is sufficient health system resource and capacity.  

The current lockdown order expires on 11 May. We expect to begin moving to Level Three of the Framework from 12 May.

This will of course be subject to the advice of the Scientific and Technical Advice team, who are monitoring the situation closely.

In Level Three, the Stay at Home order will be lifted, and there will be no general restriction on time spent outside the house.

You will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to five, as long as strict social distancing is observed at all times.

During level three, restaurants, cafés and other food establishments, able to offer an outdoor seated food service, in a way that is socially-distanced and with excellent hygiene measures in place, will begin to open. 

Alcoholic beverages can be sold with food, but an outdoor drinking only service will NOT be permitted at this stage. Pubs and bars able to offer socially-distanced outdoor seating service will remain closed, unless they offer meals. 

Strict social distancing and hygiene measures will be required for staff – both inside and outside – as well as for customers outside. 

Shops will begin to open, subject to strict physical distancing and hygiene guidelines. 

And businesses can begin to allow some staff to return to work in indoor offices and workplaces in a staged way, but cannot offer services that involve close personal contact. 

In Levels Two and One, as more business activity is permitted, we’ll also ask businesses and other employers to apply tailored public health guidelines to protect their staff and customers. 

And we will work with industry groups and trades unions to assist businesses and staff to make necessary preparations before we move into each level of the Framework.

We cannot give clarity yet on the date when we will move into Level Two, but we hope to provide that information with as much advanced notice as possible to give Islanders and businesses time to prepare.

Our testing and monitoring programme will continue to be enhanced throughout May so that we have the evidence and advice needed to move carefully through Level Three and into Level Two. 

Health and wellbeing are linked to a strong economy. Keeping people in work with secure livelihoods and financial stability is important for our mental and physical health.

That is why it is vitally important to get our economy moving again, as we gradually introduce these measures which will ensure that we can restart our economic recovery with confidence.

The Chief Minister will now conclude.

I hope that this provides Islanders and businesses with clarity on the path that the Government aims to follow in the coming weeks and months to gradually reduce restrictions.

We will of course use medical evidence and scientific data to help decide when we are ready to move to the next level.

We remain in Level Four, the current lockdown.

However, we recognise that there is an unequal impact of the lockdown across our community.

Those who live alone, or in cramped conditions, suffer more from the Stay at Home restrictions. 

So I am announcing some practical changes to the current Lockdown Instruction to be effective from tomorrow – Saturday 2nd May.

From tomorrow, Islanders are still encouraged to spend MOST of their time at home. 

However, we want everyone to be able to take care of their wellbeing. So from tomorrow you will be able to spend up to four hours a day away from your home, rather than two. And this will be for necessary shopping, medical reasons or any activity outside of your home.

Previously, time spent outside was for exercise only. This change will allow you to spend more time in any activity or pastime that takes place out of home.

We also recognise that social contact is important, and so you will be able to spend time outdoors with members of your own household (as now) and with up to 2 people you don’t live with – but please remember to keep 2 metres between you and anyone you don’t live with. We want you to be able to have more social contact, but to keep you and them safe while you do so.

These changes don’t lift the lockdown, but they should make coping with it easier until we move to the next level, which we currently anticipate will start to happen on Tuesday 12th May.

As I have said, exiting safely from COVID-19 is likely to be a journey that takes a number of months. And we will progress more safely towards a full exit if we continue to work together. 

If we fail to act as a community, then we risk an unacceptable increase in cases, with more stress put on our hospital. In those circumstance we would actually need to re-impose restrictions. This is not a position I want us to be in – but it requires all of us to continue to act responsibly. 

A staged approach to increasing social contact is critical in helping us manage infection rates and to avoid overwhelming our health and care services.   

Please listen out for, and continue to follow, public health guidance at all times. 

In order to monitor the situation, we will increase the testing of Coronavirus as we have already announced. 

We will also continue to publish all key monitoring data regularly and rapidly, so that both progress along the Framework, and any obstacles, are transparent and widely understood by everyone.   

Before we take questions, I want to thank you again for your patience, resolve and cooperation over the past few weeks. 

It has allowed us to reach a stage where we can begin to restore the freedoms that I know all Islanders want to enjoy once more.

While we look forward to this, we must never forget the risk that COVID-19 does still pose for our community, and the impact it has already had on 24 families who have sadly lost loved ones as a result of the virus. 

Please continue to act responsibly while we enter this extended Bank Holiday period. Follow the updated Stay at Home instructions and maintain the good practices you’ve already put in place. 

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds regularly throughout the day.
  • Catch your cough or sneeze in a tissue, bin it and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough into your elbow and avoid touching your face; and
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.

As I said earlier this week, if you are concerned about your physical health, even if not COVID-19 related please seek medical advice as soon as possible, especially if you are suffering from new or unexplained symptoms.

I personally find it very concerning that there are members of our community, of all ages, with serious underlying health conditions who have already been in the confines of their own homes for some weeks –even months – and some alone. 

I have a heavy heart for those who endured the Occupation but cannot celebrate 75 years of Liberation next week, in the way they had looked forward to.  

If you are in that position and are struggling in any way with these continued restrictions, you should not think that the brave thing to do is to “get on with it” or “suffer in silence.” 

 
We will get through this as a community and that means that if you need support YOU are helping your community – YOU are showing courage – by asking for help yourself.  There are people out there who want to help but they just need to know.  

Finally, as we enter a week celebrating our Liberation… 75 years ago, please let us remember… and draw strength… from the generation of Islanders who faced unprecedented adversity… during the Occupation. 

Jersey came through that terrible period, as an Island, by people supporting one another and working as a community – even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
That is the Jersey spirit. 

And it is the same spirit that you all have shown over the last few weeks, and I’m certain will continue to show… throughout this pandemic.

Thank you for listening. We’ll now take questions.

MIL OSI United Kingdom