More restrictions under review as cases top 3,000

ADDITIONAL restrictions aimed at stemming the soaring numbers of active Covid cases were being considered this week – while the head of contact-tracing warned the team was at risk of becoming overwhelmed.

The Covid-19 testing centre at the Harbour. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON
The Covid-19 testing centre at the Harbour. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON

The review follows an announcement by the government on Monday evening that mandatory mask-wearing was to be reintroduced today – around a month after the requirement was rescinded.

The move is in stark contrast to the situation in England which has just removed requirements for masks to be worn, reopened nightclubs and allowed large-scale festivals to take place.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Jersey’s government said yesterday: ‘Competent Authority Ministers are continuing to consider potential measures to mitigate the increasing numbers of active Covid cases, as part of their management of this third wave of the pandemic. At a meeting last night [Monday] they discussed a range of options, taking a balance of factors into account. They will reconvene this week to continue their discussions, ensuring that any new measures are proportionate to the current risk.’

The exponential rise in cases has caused delays within the contact-tracing process – with one Islander telling the JEP they have had been forced to wait five days before being notified that they were a direct contact of an infected individual, while another was not informed for over a week.

Caroline Maffia, strategic lead of Covid Safe, said the contract-tracing, monitoring and enforcement team was recruiting additional staff, adding that, as of last Friday, 30 new individuals had undertaken a two-day induction course before being assigned to their respective areas.

She said: ‘It’s been a challenging few weeks for the Covid Safe team. The number of individuals testing positive for Covid-19 has risen quickly, which has required us to restructure how we interact with Islanders who test positive and their direct contacts. To give some understanding of how quickly things have changed, we identified ten positive individuals on 22 June and, just over three weeks later, we were told that over 250 individuals had tested positive.’

When asked whether the contact-tracing team could become overwhelmed, she said: ‘There is always a risk when dealing with a high volume of cases. The team could become overwhelmed and there have been some delays due to the high volumes. However, we’ve learned and adapted so much in the past 16 months so I know we will always step up to the challenge.’

Yesterday, several restaurants, cafés and stores across the Island were closed. Signs in many of the affected business’s windows cited staff shortages as a result of their workers needing to self-isolate.

Mark Cox, the chief executive of the Co-op, said the surge in cases had affected the company’s day-to-day operations.

He said: ‘We have had an average of 20 staff isolating each week throughout the pandemic. Add to this the risk of contact-tracing and we have to be vigilant, agile and quick to adjust staffing across the organisation, but we are prepared for this and are working hard to ensure continuity.’

The third wave has seen a return to working from home for many Islanders. Green Street car park, which usually operates at near capacity during the working week, yesterday had 172 spaces available at around midday.

Meanwhile, in the States yesterday, the Health Minister said there were no plans to change Jersey’s position on travellers from France, despite the UK government announcing that fully vaccinated passengers from the country would have to quarantine, owing to concerns over the Beta variant. As a result, in Jersey, fully vaccinated arrivals from France only need to self-isolate if they test positive from a day-zero test. Non-fully-vaccinated travellers have to quarantine until receiving a result from their first test.

There has also been an increase in Islanders paying for private tests offered by pharmacies and medical centres.

Matt Johnson, superintendent of LV Pharmacy at West Centre, said that most customers using the facility’s testing services were doing so because they wanted to go on holiday.

He said: ‘It has certainly got a lot busier. We have increased our capacity so that Islanders wishing to travel can do so safely. However, I have been quite firm that anyone who falls within the government remit, or who potentially has Covid, should continue to report to the government. They have an incredibly difficult job and we do not want to make it any harder.’

He added: ‘One thing that the government does not get enough credit for is the vaccination programme.’

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