JERSEY remains on track to have all remaining Covid restrictions lifted on 31 March despite a surge in cases among hospital patients which has led to the closure of three wards to visitors, the Health Minister has said.
Deputy Richard Renouf yesterday revealed that 13 of the 53 infected patients across Health Department premises had been admitted because of Covid, and the rest had tested positive while being treated for other conditions.
He also moved to reassure Islanders that his department was managing to cope and the staff absence figure had remained steady over the past few weeks.
The minister added that ‘bank’ employees could be drawn on to bolster numbers.
It was revealed yesterday that, alongside Covid-19, there had been an outbreak of the norovirus sickness bug within the Hospital, which led to the closure of the 16-bed Acute Assessment Unit to visitors. The ward provides rapid assessment, diagnosis and treatment for patients arriving from the Emergency Department or their GP.
The Beauport and Plémont wards and St Saviour’s Hospital’s Cedar Ward have already been closed to visitors due to Covid.
Deputy Renouf said: ‘You can never be totally certain how somebody gets Covid, but I know staff are concerned about visitors acting irresponsibly and not wearing masks and the like. Of course, in a close community where people are in six-bed bays, it is difficult to keep it out once it is in and therefore it spreads among them.
‘As much as you try to isolate people – and patients are isolated if they test positive – before they test positive they can still be infectious. That is the problem. It is a situation that staff are managing but it has its challenges.’
According to figures released yesterday afternoon, there were 2,193 positive cases in Jersey. However, Deputy Renouf admitted that the true figure was probably much higher, as fewer people were now testing themselves on a regular basis.
‘It is very likely to be higher because not everybody is testing, although we urge that, and people are probably asymptomatic or ignoring the fact they have got some slight symptoms and are not reporting their infection. That situation is likely to be the same in every jurisdiction and the hospital numbers are reflective of that.
‘We are treating a cross-section of the community, so there will be those sort of high levels in hospital unfortunately, but it is something the Hospital will be managing,’ he said.
Deputy Renouf was asked how many Covid-positive patients were vaccinated but he said that that information was not available.
However, he said he assumed most were vaccinated, given the small number being treated for Covid.
He added: ‘That would be on each patient’s medical record but we cannot give out that information as a snapshot on a day-to-day basis. As you will remember when those statistics last came out it was a six-month review and therefore that information could be reliably collated.
‘I am not sure really how relevant it is with small numbers being treated for Covid. The majority are there for other reasons and I would expect that they would be reflective of the population and most of them would be vaccinated.’