During a Chamber of Commerce webinar yesterday, Alex Khaldi, director of public health policy, told attendees that the government’s strategy had shifted towards giving organisations and individuals the ‘tools to keep them safe’ as the Island moved into the winter months.
At the moment, the government has not issued orders for compulsory home working or mask wearing in indoor public places.
Mr Khaldi said that it was ‘crucially important’ that Islanders used the tools at their disposal to control the spread of the virus during the run up to the festive season.
He said: ‘We have been shifting our strategy very strongly towards giving businesses, organisations and individuals the tools to keep themselves safe.
‘Our more general advice remains that we’ll be seeking to promote vaccination as the very best way for Jersey to become protected from Covid-19. We are encouraging strongly the use of masks and would encourage you to encourage your customers to do the same.
‘The question of whether legal force should be applied to mask wearing is still under consideration. Lateral-flow tests and knowing your Covid-19 status are crucially important. There really is no reason why any Islanders shouldn’t have access to self-administered tests at the moment.’
He added that companies should encourage their work forces to take regular lateral-flow tests.
‘One way of keeping business continuity running is to impress upon staff in your organisations to continually check their Covid status at least twice a week. Distancing is not prescribed in our guidance at any particular length or distance but, where possible, it makes sense.
‘The importance both of hands and premises’ hygiene is high as well. We are not issuing a blanket work-from-home request for Islanders. Ministers’ objectives are to keep Jersey and business open in this important trading period but also to advise Islanders and businesses of the actions that can keep them safe,’ he said.
Rachel Williams, director of testing, said personal action to control the virus would involve measures such as taking a lateral-flow test before socialising and being sure to take hygiene precautions at events. She said: ‘We very much are encouraging all Islanders to take a lateral-flow test before they go to someone’s house, go out to the pub, meet up with friends, go and see elderly or older relatives or people who might be vulnerable.’
Jersey is following the UK in upping its vaccination programme, including by cutting the minimum period for having a booster shot from six to three months in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Concerns have been raised that the new strain might be more resistant to vaccines than other variants.
Dr Ivan Muscat, deputy medical officer of health, said: ‘The vaccine has continued to be effective against Alpha and Delta, so many are surmising that, even if there is a reduction in efficacy [against Omicron], that reduction will hopefully not be too great and therefore the corollary is we need to vaccinate at pace.’
Becky Sherrington, head of the Island’s vaccination programme, said that an announcement about the extension of the vaccination scheme would be made this week.