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PM promises testing support until island can do it itself

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PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has promised that the testing of Bailiwick samples of possible coronavirus cases will continue at a London laboratory until the on-island testing facility is established.

(Picture by 10 Downing Street/Crown copyright/ Andrew Parsons/PA Wire)

In a letter, dated Thursday 26 March, Mr Johnson wrote to the island’s senior politician, Gavin St Pier, to provide assurances.

‘This Government is committed to working with the Crown Dependencies to help defeat what is the challenge of this generation.

‘I am pleased to confirm that Colindale Public Health Laboratory will complete the agreed number of tests for Guernsey. We will ensure that this relationship continues until your own testing capabilities are up and running.’

The letter from Mr Johnson was a response to a strongly-worded one sent to by Deputy St Pier on Friday 20 March.

It gives an insight into the frantic work and lobbying which is taking place behind the scenes.

At that point the island only had two confirmed cases, but Deputy St Pier had received some troubling news, and he wanted some guarantees.

‘Earlier this week, the testing centre (that had previously partnered successfully with us) ended its support for our community testing regime.

‘Yesterday, we received welcome confirmation that test processing can now restart in accordance with the Bailiwick’s current urgent need.

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‘The number of tests is small but the ability to have them (and the current backlog) processed rapidly in accordance with our own testing regime is vitally important for us.

‘If there are any further delays, our critical opportunity to limit effectively the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives and health of our entire population will be seriously compromised.’

Deputy St Pier also cited the ‘long-standing relationship’ between the Bailiwick and the UK, and outlined how the island only has one hospital with lower resilience because of finite health resources, and a specific demographic profile.

Like all communities, testing is regarded as the critical tool in fighting the pandemic, and Deputy St Pier warned that without it the island would likely need ‘to seek further healthcare support from the UK’.

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The response from Mr Johnson, who has since tested positive for Covid-19, was a declaration of support, and it came as a relief to Deputy St Pier.

‘I am pleased that the UK has provided the assurance that we were seeking in relation to tests which underpin our strategy.

‘The Bailiwick is making its own evidence-based decisions to safeguard lives and health.

‘Those decisions take into account the evidence from the vital test results that we receive from our UK test centre partner.’

All the test equipment that was ordered to set up the island’s very own testing facility has now arrived, and it is being trialled and staff are being trained.

When this is up and running the island will be self-reliant.

. The full text of the letters is at https://guernseypress.com/news/2020/03/30/chief-minister-deputy-gavin-st-piers-letter-to-prime-minister-boris-johnson/

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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