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COVID-19: 'Young people vital in helping to slow the spread', says Chief Minister

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YOUNG Islanders 'have the power' to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Chief Minister has said as he criticised 'conspiracy theorists' for spreading fear online.

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Senator John Le Fondré said comments online were hampering the trust Islanders have in medical professionals.

There was a message for young Islanders too. Although the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19, which has killed almost 25,000 people globally, will only experience mild symptoms, the Senator implored young people to listen to government advice for the sake of their older family members.

'You have the power to slow the spread of coronavirus, please use that power,' the Chief Minister said. New advice the Island's most vulnerable was issued yesterday.

Meanwhile, when asked if the Radisson Blu Hotel could be used as a 300-bed field hospital help the Island's health system deal with peak demand during the coronavirus outbreak, the Chief Minister said it was an option being 'actively looked at'. Health experts have previously said Overdale could also be used if bed-space becomes strained at the Hospital.

However, a spokesperson for the Waterfront hotel said this not the case. The JEP understands some discussions have taken place to potentially house key workers during the height of the epidemic.

The government is coming under increasing pressure for its handling of the pandemic. Islanders, including the Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham, have called for a UK and Guernsey-style lockdown in Jersey. Senator Farnham said on Thursday that he backed the government's current stance – seemingly contrary to a tweet he posted earlier in the week.

Calls for lock down increased after new data showed the Island's positive cases of COVID-19 had jumped from 16 to 32 in 48 hours. There have been 671 tests carried out as of Thursday, 472 have been negative and 167 are outstanding.

Senator Le Fondré said 'most' were being treated in the community and were 'generally doing well'. He could not comment on the number of patients with COVID-19 in hospital.

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The Chief Minister also moved to reassure Islanders that such a jump was expected and in line with the predicted epidemic curve identified by Dr Ivan Muscat, the Island's medical officer for health.

However, as he paid tribute to the Island's first victim of COVID-19, a patient in their 80s who was in palliative care, he warned that there would be more deaths to come.

'The fact they were on an end of life pathway and had underlying health conditions does not make the death any less sad,' the Senator said.

'This is the first death to affect our Island but not the only death we will mourn together. So I implore everybody please take heed of government advice and keep your distance from each other.

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'Good hygiene and keeping two metres apart are the most effective ways of stopping the virus and saving lives. The risks Dr Muscat has reminded us of are real and the actions we must take to reduce risk are very real and very simple to follow.

'We must all follow them and I appeal to our young people to play their part and reduce the risk risk to their older family members.'

Addressing 'rumours and misinformation' circulating online, the Chief Minister said: 'We have always been clear and transparent since this pandemic began that we would publish the number of people tested for COVID-19 and the number of people who have contracted the virus any other relevant information.

'These rumours by a minority of conspiracy theorists make people fearful, they are unfounded, unnecessary and are damaging to the trust that we all need in the integrity and professionalism of our health colleagues. I am also and grateful that so many people are not engaging with this and are showing in practical ways the best side of Jersey's community spirit.'

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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