Deborah McMillan also said she would support the decision – if it was made by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – as long as parents and children supported it.
Mrs McMillan has praised the government for listening to scientific advice and ‘making the right decision’ to reduce the isolation requirements for pupils identified as direct contacts, after concerns mounted over hundreds of young people having to stay at home.
Previously, anyone not fully vaccinated who was contact traced was required to quarantine for at least ten days. However, ministers announced on Tuesday that secondary school students will only have to self-isolate until receiving a negative result from a day-five test, and will be tested on day zero and ten.
Nursery and primary school children will only have to isolate until they receive their first negative test result. They will also be tested on day five and ten.
Following the announcement, Mrs McMillan said: ‘It is a very difficult decision and one that many countries are grappling with, so I was pleased to be able to work with the government to help them make the right decision that was in the best interests of all children.
‘I am pleased to see that the scientific advice was listened to and that the right decision was made.’
She added: ‘What we can’t allow is for Covid to run rife through our schools – we have a duty to protect the children. We don’t know what the long-term effects of Covid are.’
When asked if she would be in favour of a vaccine rollout for under-18s, Mrs McMillan said she had been working with Becky Sherrington – head of the vaccination programme – in an advisory capacity.
‘If the JCVI makes that decision then I will be supportive, provided parents and children choose to do so, and if there is no discrimination for those children who choose not to, then I do think it is something that can be rolled out,’ she said.
Audrey Murphy, the chief inspector of the Jersey Care Commission, said: ‘As a member of the public I welcome any change that would help to alleviate children’s stress and anxiety.
‘The impact on young people, who may have already experienced periods of isolation, the fear of being in a school environment and getting contact-traced, I imagine that would weigh on anyone’s mind.’
She added: ‘A child hearing about Covid on a daily basis and being constantly reminded about it – that could contribute to feelings of anxiety.’
Earlier this year Mrs McMillan claimed there had been times when the government ‘didn’t perhaps acknowledge me when they should have done’. However, she said the situation was improving and that she was ‘increasingly engaging’ in discussions with civil servants around policies and legislation.