Members reject move to tighten border traffic-light system

A MOVE to enforce stricter isolation requirements for people arriving into the Island has been rejected by the States ahead of the planned resumption of travel on Monday.

Passengers arriving at Jersey Airport. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30708218)
Passengers arriving at Jersey Airport. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30708218)

Under Jersey’s traffic-light system – which is due to restart on the same day – arrivals will again be required to self-isolate for different periods depending on their travel history.

The proposal from the Safer Travel Guidelines Review Panel would have seen the threshold for ‘green’ arrivals drop from 50 Covid cases per 100,000 of population to 25 – thereby creating more amber zones and forcing more incoming passengers to isolate for a minimum period of five days.

Travellers arriving from green areas must isolate until they receive their test results from their day-zero test. Those coming from red regions must isolate until they have received a negative result from their day-ten test.

Members voted by 37 to nine against the proposal during yesterday’s States sitting.

Panel chairman Deputy Rob Ward said Jersey was ‘at a vital stage in our response to this pandemic’ and he said he wanted to avoid a repeat of the spike in cases seen in December.

But ministers said that the changes would have a significant impact on travellers but would not have a ‘meaningful’ impact on risk levels.

If the proposal had been approved, 152 UK regions classified as green would have changed to amber, accounting for 62% of the total green regions, according to Health Minister Richard Renouf.

He said around 125 passengers a day had already booked travel in the three weeks from Monday, and that ‘the majority of those will be visiting green regions’ and added that the Island’s track-and-trace testing system for arrivals provided suitable protection.

‘The benefit of the proposed change is very marginal,’ he said.

Deputy Renouf also said there would be ‘confusion distress and anger in our community over this action’, which ‘breaks trust in all of us’.

Members supporting the proposition referred to Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell minutes from last year after the green classification was raised from 25 to 50 cases per 100,000 on 29 September. STAC minutes released in January revealed concerns from scientific experts over the Island’s border policy and described that change of threshold as a ‘political decision’.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré said that a lot of focus was being placed on minutes that were ‘six or seven months old’, while Treasury Minister Susie Pinel said current STAC advice was that up to 50 cases per 100,000 people for green arrivals was appropriate.

But Deputy Inna Gardiner said: ‘This is about the safe management of travel – travel can and will continue. We have our previous experience of our past border failures that would be good to reflect upon at this time.’

She raised concerns about variants of Covid-19, including the Brazilian, South African and Indian strains. All recent cases of the disease were from inbound travellers, she told the Assembly.

Social Security Minister Judy Martin said the changes would disproportionately affect the less privileged who had jobs that did not allow them to work from home. She asked Members to think of the ‘ordinary worker’ and whether they could afford the extra week off work due to having to isolate.

Constable Richard Buchanan said that Jersey was in ‘a much better place than when we opened up last spring’, given vaccination rates.

Supporting the proposal, Senator Kristina Moore added: ‘Let’s be proud to offer that additional offer of reassurance, and safety and security.’

Summing up, Deputy Ward said the panel had not met STAC because it had not been possible to do so.

Members also did not support categorising authorities at upper-tier local-authority level. However, they did vote to ensure Scrutiny and States Members were briefed ahead of any future changes to the safer-travel policy.

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