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Emergency laws agreed to help battle COVID-19 battle in Jersey

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EMERGENCY laws allowing the dispersal of large public gatherings, use of hotels for hospital beds and access to hundreds of millions of pounds from the rainy day fund were passed on Tuesday to help combat COVID-19.

The States sitting was held at Fort Regent (27662357)

During a socially-distanced States sitting held at the Gloucester Hall in Fort Regent, few objections were raised as a raft of propositions were passed after having been lodged at short notice in response to the pandemic.

Special dispensation to approve all of the new laws was passed in a single vote by Members.

The new measures, which were overwhelmingly backed by the Assembly, and were mainly temporary, included:

  • Allowing Treasury Minister Susie Pinel to access up to £400 million from the Strategic Reserve – Jersey’s Rainy day Fund – as well as money held in other States' reserves to help combat the crisis.
  • Relaxing regulations for the Jersey Care Commission and care providers to allow them to redeploy staff more easily.
  • Removing the requirement for premises to officially register to provide health care.
  • Giving power to the Environment Minster to disperse large public gatherings that threaten to spread the virus.

Other measures included the suspension of a second medical examination being required before a cremation was held.

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Health Minister Richard Renouf said that the move would reduce the burden on medical staff if large numbers of Islanders were infected by the virus.

‘If the pandemic affects Jersey in a significant way, it will affect the primary care sector significantly and staff will not be able to carry out administrative duties in relation to cremations,’ he said.

The Bailiff was also given the power to withdraw or add additional conditions to public events that have already been given the go-ahead.

The Superintendent Registrar was given the ability to sign the register of births and deaths without a family member or funeral director present.

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The period of time a medical practitioner has to determine a cause of death by examining a body was also extended from 14 to 28 days.

Appointed Day Acts, which enact legislation for certain criminal proceedings, were brought forward and approved to reduce the need for certain individuals to be present at court hearings, in a bid to aid social distancing.

Concerns were raised by Senators Ian Gorst and Sam Mézec about the relaxation of care regulations, in particular owing to Jersey’s commitment to ‘put children first’.

Deputy Gregory Guida, who presented the propositions relating to healthcare, said that care workers would need ‘breathing space’ if a lot of people in Jersey became infected by COVID-19.

‘We may look at additional accommodation such as hotels or other lodgings for use as care homes,’ he said.

‘We must allow our healthcare workers to get on with the job they need to do. These regulations will give them the breathing space that they need.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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