The government confirmed yesterday that the way in which regional travel zones are classified is to change from Tuesday with data from lower-tier [town or parish council] local authorities being used to determine whether an area is classed as a green, amber or red risk zone.
Currently levels are determined by broader upper-level [county or metropolitan] local authorities, which mean some rural areas with few cases have been banded in the amber category because nearby towns and cities with high case numbers fell within their zone. These rural areas will now drop down to green.
However, some cities with high case numbers have been artificially banded as amber, as they have benefited from being within a zone peppered with low-case rural areas. Some of these cities will now be categorised as red zones.
Also yesterday the government announced that the upper threshold for green zones is to double from 25 cases per 100,000 population to 50 cases.
Chief Minister John Le Fondré said relaxing the thresholds had been carried out in line with European Commission proposals and had been balanced against the fact that passenger numbers were dropping, the Island-based testing facility was now in place and that all incoming passengers will soon be asked to self-isolate until receiving a negative Covid test.
Currently, passengers arriving from green zones are not required to self-isolate. However, once the testing turnaround times are reduced to an average of 12 hours – which Senator Le Fondré said he anticipated would happen within weeks – all green arrivals will be forced to isolate until they are confirmed as negative for Covid on their initial arrival test. They would also be required to take a second test after five days.
Travellers from amber regions will still be required to isolate for a minimum of five days and record two negative test results, while those coming from red zones will have to isolate for 14 days.
Senator Le Fondré said: ‘As we have learnt and got our systems in place we can modify our regime. We have to think about the wellbeing of the Island, particularly health measures and wellbeing of Islanders in general and the economy comes into that. I have always emphasised that we do not put money before people.’
The Chief Minister added that further measures to protect Islanders through the winter were being considered and further announcements were to be made next week.
He said: ‘We’ve got ourselves into a favourable position by following sound medical advice and we must continue to do so.
‘It’s been a long time since you have heard me talk about a pandemic curve – and that’s because we don’t have one in Jersey. We flatlined it long ago. But look across the water at their graphs, and how quickly their infection curves are rising, together with rates of hospitalisation.
‘That is what we could be dealing with. That is what we want to prevent. And that is why we put in measures early. A smoke alarm fitted once the house is on fire is no use at all.’
He added that these measures were being put in place to reduce the risk of a second lockdown as seen in large parts of the UK.
Earlier this week, Health Minister Richard Renouf revealed that one measure – which is to be brought before the States in November – is to force Islanders to wear masks in indoor public places, although this would not be required in workplaces. The minister has said that wearing masks in indoor public places is strongly recommended in the meantime.
Dr Ivan Muscat, deputy medical officer of health, said: ‘If an individual in a workplace is positive, it is usually fairly straightforward to establish who a direct contact is.’
Dr Muscat also said that he was confident that the contingency plans in force would ensure Jersey had enough equipment in the Island to continue the testing programme throughout the winter.
‘We have organised with the Airport laboratory that they will bring in the appropriate reagents and materials that they need on a regular basis with a buffer on-Island to cater for the vagaries of our weather. They have allowed themselves the flexibility of acquiring reagents from different manufacturers and providers to avoid the problems of people running out of reagents as we have seen earlier this year.’
He added that there was still the scope to send some lower-priority tests to the UK.
*There are currently 16 active cases of Covid-19 in Jersey.