No new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Guernsey for the past two weeks, prompting confirmation by Sarnian ministers and officials that they are seeking to eliminate the virus in the island.
And now Deputy Jess Perchard has lodged a proposition which, if accepted, would require the Council of Ministers to sharply change tack on Jersey’s approach – which accepts that the number of cases will rise as the Island eases out of lockdown – and follow Guernsey.
The proposition comes as new data put the official estimate for Jersey’s R value – the rate at which the infection is spreading – at 0.45. In other words, an infected person if likely, on average, to infect 0.45 people. The goal in countries around the world has been to get the number below 1.
As of yesterday, there had been an increase of 11 positive cases in Jersey since 1 May, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 297. Four people have died during this period, taking the Island’s total number of deaths linked to Covid-19 to 27.
If Deputy Perchard’s proposition is approved she wants a new plan for Jersey to be produced within two weeks of the decision.
The new strategy would include rapid case detection through widespread testing, isolation of those who test positive and immediate tracing of people they may have come into contact with. Strict border controls and the quarantining of all arriving passengers would be maintained.
The politician, who represents St Saviour No 3, said yesterday that her proposition was intended to reflect the groundswell of public concern about the relaxing lockdown measures, which began this week.
Writing on her private Twitter account, she said: ‘I do not know whether this is the right course of action, but want the debate.’
Deputy Perchard challenged Chief Minister John Le Fondré on the subject in this week’s States sitting.
Senator Le Fondré responded by saying that Jersey’s strategy was based on medical advice, and that there would be significant consequences of waiting for a vaccine, which he said could be six, 12 or even 18 months away.
‘Our approach will mean the virus passes through in a controlled way, people can get the treatment they need and the impact is less severe,’ he said.
Ministers have also talked about the impact of an extended lockdown on Islanders’ mental health, with anxiety levels raised by a combination of health concerns and the effect of a deep and prolonged economic downturn.
New Zealand, which has a population of almost five million, has also pursued an eradication strategy, with no new Covid-19 cases in the past three days and a death toll of 21 out of 1,500 confirmed cases. Significant easing measures to lockdown are being introduced, but strict travel restrictions remain in place.
The volume of swab tests being carried out in Jersey remains beneath the capacity outlined by ministers, currently given at 235 per day. A further 84 completed tests were recorded yesterday, which meant Monday’s total of 3,618 had increased by 243 over the past four days.