Islands take different paths in virus battle

GUERNSEY has marginally more confirmed cases of Covid-19 than Jersey, but the latter’s testing regime is not as effective.

Jersey's chief minister John Le Fondre.
Jersey's chief minister John Le Fondre.

As of yesterday there were 97 confirmed cases in Guernsey and one death compared to Jersey’s 96 and two deaths.

More than 106,000 people live in Jersey, with 63,000 in Guernsey.

Jersey’s chief minister Senator John Le Fondre announced on Monday that up to 800 Jersey residents could have the virus without knowing it, due to a rise in pending test results and its lack of on-island testing.

There are 247 outstanding test results in Jersey, 49 in Guernsey.

Guernsey went into lockdown last Wednesday after evidence of community seeding emerged, while Jersey entered lockdown only on Monday.

At the time of lockdown, Guernsey had 23 confirmed cases compared to Jersey’s 81.

During a Twitter question and answer session, Jersey’s chief minister said he respected Policy & Resources president Gavin St Pier’s approach in dealing with the virus when he was asked why Jersey had not initiated a lockdown sooner.

‘We’ve acted in steps to make sure that the most vulnerable people have been most protected,’ he said.

‘But we’ve also been responding to our own specific circumstances.

‘I respect @gavinstpier’s approach, and recognise each island is dealing with its own situation.’

Both islands have similar lockdown rules that encourage family units to remain separate but there are subtle differences.

In Jersey, people are allowed to leave their house for only two hours a day to complete essential tasks, including exercising, whereas people here are allowed a two-hour window purely for exercise and there is no time limit applied for other essential tasks.

Both islands have imposed a two-metre social distancing rule, shut schools and shut down businesses considered non-essential, unless work can be performed from home.

What is considered essential differs between the islands, however, with takeaway services still able to operate in Jersey.

Even work previously deemed low-risk, such as gardening and window cleaning, has been ordered to cease in Guernsey, whereas Jersey has allowed non-essential work conducted outside a person’s household to continue as long as they are able to enforce strict social distancing at all times.

Both islands have said lockdown will be re-evaluated over a period of weeks rather than months, although any decision will be informed by testing data.

Guernsey has established on-island testing with a capacity of 40 a day, which is supplemented by up to 35 UK tests where necessary.

Jersey is still reliant on the UK while it awaits the delivery of 5,000 testing kits, which explains the high number of outstanding test results.

Jersey’s chief minister has said that the sister isle’s lockdown could be relaxed in stages to prevent a ‘second surge’ of infections and Guernsey’s head of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink has said no decision will be made until a more comprehensive data set can be gathered to analyse the impact of the virus.

Both islands are attempting to flatten the curve with their lockdown strategy, although only a few days ago Jersey’s chief minister purportedly held the position that herd immunity via the majority of the population becoming infected over the next few months was likely.

During the Twitter session, he did an about-turn and said herd immunity was not a strategy.

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