Covid : Emergency option to tighten up travel restrictions

THERE is an ‘emergency brake’ option to impose stricter travel restrictions for arrivals, the deputy medical officer of health has said, amid growing fears over increasing cases of the so-called Indian Covid variant in parts of the UK.

Dr Ivan Muscat. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30845732)
Dr Ivan Muscat. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30845732)

Dr Ivan Muscat said that Covid activity – including variants currently spreading across the UK – was being ‘continuously monitored’ both locally and internationally.

Earlier this week, ministers announced plans to drastically reduce the isolation requirements for arrivals travelling to Jersey, as well as the introduction of vaccine passports allowing those who have received two jabs to skip certain restrictions.

From 28 May, the whole of England, Scotland and Wales will be classed as green – meaning that, as long as travellers have not been in an amber or red area within the previous 14 days, they will only have to self-isolate until they receive their first PCR test result, which is usually around 12 hours.

However, rising numbers of the Indian variant – a potentially more transmissible form of Covid – has led to speculation that proposed dates for the lifting of Covid restrictions, currently set for 21 June, could be delayed.

Jersey’s reconnection roadmap is set to allow nightclubs to reopen and large crowds to gather from 14 June. Dr Muscat said that there were currently no plans to change the Island’s reconnection roadmap but that the option remained available to delay the easing of some restrictions should it be necessary. There are currently two known active cases in the Island.

He said: ‘Covid activity, including variants of concern, are continuously monitored, not only in Jersey, but in other countries. Some regions in the UK are indicating escalating infection rates or are linked to variant-of-concern risks, or both.

‘These regions and the UK as a whole are being closely monitored as we move towards the introduction of national classifications on 28 May. Ministers have approved the use of the “emergency brake” process to implement additional travel restrictions as and when needed.

‘Additionally, the risk of a more widespread distribution of the Indian variant and its wider implications on vaccination and other public-health measures are being actively assessed.’

Meanwhile, a community testing scheme has been launched in Jersey, so that eligible businesses within specific public-facing sectors can register to receive lateral flow testing kits – a quick and easy form of testing that is less accurate than a PCR test.

‘Regular testing remains an important tool in the management of Covid-19,’ said Dr Muscat. ‘Until the pandemic behaviour of this virus has waned, we must achieve and maintain heightened levels of protection and prevention.’

Health Minister Richard Renouf said: ‘The provision of these tests means that businesses can feel confident that the risk of Covid-19 is minimised within their workplace.

‘Through identifying isolated cases, we can prevent further transmission and outbreaks, and in the long run save businesses from needing to temporarily close. This programme offers mutually beneficial reassurance for businesses and their staff on the one hand and customers and visitors on the other.’

Yesterday, vaccination bookings for Islanders aged between 30 and 34 opened yesterday, with demand so high that the slots were fully booked within minutes.

Businesses can register to participate in the testing scheme by visiting the gov.je website.

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