Deputy Kirsten Morel warned that some businesses would not be able to survive further closures if a lockdown was imposed.
He spoke out after it emerged that a number of cases of the Brazil variant had been detected in the UK. Public Health England have said there are eight different Covid variants under surveillance.
Yesterday, ministers announced a roadmap for the easing of restrictions in Jersey – but did not give any firm dates as to when the borders may fully reopen.
The Island’s deputy medical officer of health, Dr Ivan Muscat, has previously said that Jersey’s current border controls – under which arrivals have to isolate for a period of ten days and have three negative tests – were being maintained due to the prevalence of the variants and high case numbers outside of the Island.
Deputy Morel said that it ‘makes sense’ to follow Dr Muscat’s advice and take a cautious approach when it comes to changing the border policy, adding that the vaccination programme, health measures and restrictions on travel have ‘put the Island in a good place’.
‘We must not lose this advantage and that means we should exercise particular caution when looking to open our borders,’ said the Deputy. ‘Particularly because we are not yet at the point where 70% or 80% of our population has been vaccinated and also because new and highly transmissible variants – that may be more resistant to vaccines – are present in the global population.’
He added: ‘Just because the UK wants to open domestic travel in April, doesn’t mean we should necessarily join up straight away. Businesses cannot afford a third Covid spike, so we must maintain strong controls at the border, controls that are at least as strong, if not stronger than those we have had in place over the past year.’
When asked what risks these new variants could pose to the Island, Dr Muscat said: ‘Any variant with increased transmissibility and a possible reduction in responding to the current vaccines is considered a threat.
‘However the frequency of the Brazilian strain in the UK is considered to be very low. Public Health England has responded by increasing testing to detect any onward transmission and there is strict border control to prevent importation of the variant.’
He added that the current vaccines ‘continue to be protective’ against this new strain, but to a slightly lesser degree.