Reassurance on vaccines as cases rise

ISLANDERS are being offered reassurance about the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines amid a spike in case numbers.

Dr Ivan Muscat. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (31034636)
Dr Ivan Muscat. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (31034636)

Yesterday it was announced that nine new cases had been discovered – bringing the Island’s total number of active cases up to 30.

Four of the infections were identified through people seeking healthcare, two from inbound travel and three through contact tracing. None of the 30 is in hospital.

At the same time there were 2,296 tests that returned a negative result and one person was recorded as having recovered.

Deputy medical officer of health Dr Ivan Muscat says that data shows the new more-virulent Delta variant, which originated in India, is around 60% more transmissible.

However, Dr Muscat said that the evidence remains strong that vaccines are protecting people from serious illness and admission to hospital.

In a statement, he said: ‘The overall rates in the UK show that the great majority of admissions to hospital have had no or only one vaccine dose but are less likely to have serious illness despite admission, because of the age distribution of those yet to be vaccinated. Younger people are generally at lower risk of developing severe complications.

‘The Government of Jersey’s Covid vaccination programme has brought forward appointments for those aged 18 to 24 this weekend. I urge those eligible for vaccination to book their appointments as soon as possible, including those in older age groups who have not yet completed vaccination.

‘Reported Covid-19 deaths can occur for a variety of underlying health complications and risks. Full vaccination provides very good protection against infection with Delta.’

UK statistics have found that of 42 deaths in people who had the Delta variant, 23 were unvaccinated and seven had received only one dose. The other 12 had received two doses more than two weeks before.

Dr Muscat’s comments follow the introduction of a new travel policy which has led to the whole of Scotland being classed as red from Tuesday. Previously this would have meant anyone arriving from the country having to self-isolate pending a negative result from a day-ten test.

However, from Tuesday, anyone arriving from a red region will only have to isolate until they receive a negative test result from their day-zero test if they have been fully vaccinated in the CTA.

In recent weeks, the rising number of cases has impacted on some services. On Tuesday, the RNLI announced that it would be temporarily pulling its lifeguards from Plémont after a number of them were infected.

And yesterday the government announced that it would need to withdraw its lifeguards from the Havre des Pas Bathing Pool after a similar situation emerged there.

Meanwhile, businesses are being reminded to ensure they keep protective measures in place and collect contact information for tracing purposes. The government said they were expecting a busy weekend of travel arrival and hospitality visits.

Recent figures show that there has been a 30% drop in contact-tracing data. Where there are concerns about lack of contact details, ministers will announce the venues visited by people who test positive for Covid so that others in the same place can arrange a test.

Dr Muscat said: ‘With increased social interactions comes an increased risk of being a direct contact of a positive individual. Being able to quickly identify direct contacts allows us to test and isolate those who may be at higher risk of developing and transmitting the virus.

‘About a third of people with the virus have no symptoms – contact tracing helps to reduce the risk that people spread the virus unknowingly. Additionally, it is worth reminding everyone that if they have symptoms that may be due to Covid to isolate and arrange for testing via the helpline on 01534 445566.’

Health Minister Richard Renouf added: ‘Our Covid-19 laws and guidance are more important than ever and contact tracing is critical to stopping the spread of Covid – even more so as we relax restrictions and welcome more arrivals to the Island during the summer months.

‘Notifying the public regarding areas where Covid has been present is not to name and shame businesses but to help identify direct contacts. If businesses adhere to the guidance, it will reduce the spread within their establishment. However, an asymptomatic positive case may still visit.’

Guernsey had been due to completely ease its travel restrictions for those arriving from the Common Travel Area from 1 July only being required to take a single test on arrival. But yesterday it was announced, in the light of the UK’s worsening situation, those who were not fully vaccinated would still be required to isolate.

Dr Nicola Brink, Guernsey’s director of public health, told the Guernsey Press: ‘The next few weeks are going to be critical as we see if the current increase in infections in the UK stabilises or worsens.

‘However, the evidence available to us now gives us enough concern to pause to allow for more of our population to be fully vaccinated. It also stresses the importance of getting our community fully vaccinated as quickly as possible.'

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