Our Island is today in a very different position than it was on 10th March when COVID-19 arrived in our community.
Then, we were facing a new challenge the scale and impact of which we could only guess at.
Today - just 15 weeks later – the picture is very different. Our medical experts are better armed with information, our community knows what it needs to do to stay safe and we find ourselves in a strong position.
We have a very low rate of infection. All current cases are asymptomatic, the mildest form of Covid-19, and no one is receiving treatment for COVID-19 in the General Hospital.
Just as we set out to, we have flattened the curve, keeping the vast majority of islanders safe and unaffected by this infection.
At every stage of the pandemic, we have listened carefully to our expert medical advice – and acted on it, focussing tightly on what was right for Jersey.
Our priority is, and has always been, islanders’ lives, livelihoods and wellbeing.
With great care, we have taken appropriate steps to gradually unlock freedoms again, reopening businesses and returning to some of our normal activities.
At the same time, we have witnessed the curve of infection move steadily downwards.
As a result of the position Jersey finds itself in, and based firmly on medical advice, we now believe that the time is right to resume – very carefully and with safeguards in place – travel to and from our island.
In what we are calling the Safer Travel Period, we are proposing that people can travel to and from Jersey from 3 July without restrictions and without the need for special permission on medical, essential worker or other grounds.
This means that islanders will be able to visit friends and family after the long isolation. It also means that tourists and visitors will be welcome here again.
This will be a welcome easing of restrictions for many, many people and businesses. But it will also be a cause of concern for some. We recognise that being an island is probably one of the factors that has kept us relatively safe during the pandemic. And we know some people will be feeling concerned about the prospect of letting the virus in again when flights and ferries return.
I have reassured islanders, on a number of occasions, that we could only reopen our travel links when it was safe to do so, and I have no doubt that the measures we are putting in place will achieve this.
The number of flights and sailings will begin modestly and increase gradually – primarily operated by Blue Islands, British Airways and EasyJet and, of course, Condor.
And – most importantly – every traveller entering Jersey must either participate in the border testing programme, or they must self-isolate for the timeframe specified by the latest medical advice.
This move is based on the advice of Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) and has been approved by the Council of Ministers.
In making this decision, we have sought to balance the potential risk of additional cases with the substantial damage clearly being caused to islanders’ non-COVID related health issues, mental health and wider physical wellbeing - and to our businesses and livelihoods.
I want to reassure Islanders that travel into the Island is managed in a safe and consistent way.
We will be implementing a four-part control mechanism based on strong foundations:
- Clear, detailed guidance - setting out best practice for airlines, ferry operators and hotels to keep travelers safe, including the provision of our detailed public health guidance and information for all passengers on arrival.
- Planning and monitoring - We will work closely with Transport providers, ensuring all commercial operators share details of planned services with the Ports of Jersey and Government in advance so that the testing programme can be effectively planned in advance.
- Managing borders - All arriving passengers will either take part in our border testing programme or undergo a quarantine period. We are already working to ensure that we can provide confirmed results to all arrivals within 12 hours. I can confirm by the time the new policy starts we will have a contract and accommodation available, funded by the Government, for those who test positive and are required to go into quarantine. We expect the numbers to be low and on an ad hoc basis, however we will have the places secured and ready.
- Close, continued tracking - All travellers will be asked to provide contact information ahead of travel. And we will employ forensic contact tracing for people who have positive results, testing all direct contacts. Our tack and trace team has been expanded to 55 staff, with capacity to grow further.
These four foundations supplement the ongoing measures we have already put in place already to protect Islanders, and control the spread of COVID-19 in the Island.
We will continue the close monitoring of public health intelligence and data, and daily case analysis. And we will continue our planned PCR screening on a large scale, while testing everyone in the community with symptoms of the virus.
Testing technology is continually improving and we are closely monitoring developments to ensure we remain at the forefront of developments.
The pandemic is not yet over but we are now far better prepared than we were in early March to deal with and continue to supress the virus.
Ultimately, we stand ready to react quickly if the situation changes and will reintroduce restrictions if we have to, in order to keep islanders safe.
Our Safer Travel proposal, which will be lodged in a Proposition to the States, allows us to open Jersey’s borders in a safe way. We are doing what is best for our Island and our connectivity, which is centred on the UK but also includes travel to Madeira and France.
It means Jersey will be able to maintain its position as a well-connected global jurisdiction and a tourism destination. And Islanders will be able to go on holiday, take part in career and educational opportunities, and visit their friends and family once again.