During yesterday’s States sitting, Deputy Richard Renouf said work was ongoing with public health officials to try to mitigate disruption for pupils. He said that lateral-flow testing was ‘very reliable’ against the now prevalent Delta variant.
Deputy Louise Doublet had asked the minister ‘how he was planning to mitigate the effects on education’, after saying she had been told children’s education was being ‘significantly disrupted’.
Yesterday, the Island reported a daily increase of 37 in Covid cases, with 11,201 direct contacts and three Islanders in hospital, while, as of last Friday, there were 48 reported cases in schools.
Deputy Renouf said it appeared ‘that children are having to attend too regularly for PCR tests, because they are regularly being identified as direct contacts of classmates’.
He said that children ‘who may have to attend two or three times a week for a PCR test’ were being left distressed, adding: ‘It may not be the most appropriate thing to do because lateral-flow tests are very reliable with the Delta variant, but that work is being considered with public health officials with a view to trying to help in the educational setting.’
The minister also said that people turning up to testing appointments at the wrong times was causing issues with waiting times for results. Deputy Renouf was responding to a question by Senator Sam Mézec, who – speaking from isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 last week – asked what measures were being put in place to account for an increase in PCR tests, as a result of increasing case numbers and direct contacts, and about impact on waiting times.
Deputy Renouf said additional recruitment was ongoing, while 11 staff had joined the testing team at the Harbour last week, with capacity there increasing from 500 daily appointments to around 1,000. A total of 6,570 people were tested last week, he added.
And Deputy Rob Ward queried at what point ‘mitigation measures’ would be brought in, to which Deputy Renouf responded: ‘The winter strategy has been released and makes clear that the critical issue here is the risk to our hospital, and if we see large numbers of cases coming into the Hospital – particularly needing ICU treatment – then that puts us in a much more difficult position.
‘We are not seeing those numbers at present.’