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Coronavirus lockdown: islanders thanked after promising first day

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A MASSIVE thank you has gone out to islanders for sticking to the rules on the first day of the lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The streets of Town were quiet on the first day of the coronavirus lockdown. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 27692149)

Most people hunkered down, traffic was lighter and social distancing was much more evident within the initial 24 hours of the official order to stay at home.

Under the lockdown, going out is allowed only for essential work, shopping for vital supplies, acts of kindness for vulnerable people and two hours of exercise.

While it was not total shutdown, Town was very quiet and supermarkets reported a ‘calmer experience’.

As of tonight [Wednesday] there was no update on the number of local cases of coronavirus, so the total still stood at 23 positive cases, but further batches of test results were anticipated to come in on Thursday.

States chief executive Paul Whitfield said a big majority of people reacted responsibly to the first day of the lockdown and heeded the new measures.

‘I want to say a massive thank you to the community in terms of how they’ve responded to this strict regime in fairly short order, I think the community wanted us to act decisively and quickly, and that’s exactly what we did.’

Deputy Gavin St Pier, the chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority, echoed the view that the core messages were now getting through.

‘All the observations that have gone on today in the major food outlets show quite a different set of behaviours by both retailers and shoppers to this time last week, so that obviously is a very positive development.

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‘On balance, I think it has gone really well and I think it has been welcomed by the community. I get a sense of relief from people that there is clarity and assurance about the direction of the travel for the next couple of weeks.’

The drastic lockdown measures were taken to ‘flatten the curve’ of the outbreak, which essentially means spacing out cases so that they do not overwhelm the Princess Elizabeth Hospital and the nurses, doctors and support staff.

Despite the relative success of the first 24 hours, there was still confusion over who can work.

The rules state that people can go to work if their job is ‘essential’ and it ‘absolutely cannot be done from home’.

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However, this has thrown up a number of grey areas about what constitutes ‘essential’ work.

Mr Whitfield said today they would be providing more information and definition on this.

‘We don’t want people to go into work unless it is absolutely critical, so employers have to ask themselves whether they are calling in employees to do work that is absolutely critical or essential.

Deputy St Pier added that it was not the intention to close down the whole local economy, and the vital organs must still operate.

‘I think in terms of trying to understand what does essential mean, it’s not a question of what is essential to that individual business, but it’s what is essential to the community, and is it essential to right now?’

The lockdown is expected to be in place for weeks, but the more people stay at home and adhere with social distancing, the hope is the faster the infection spread can be controlled.

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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