Leaders confident of avoiding second wave

GUERNSEY’S leaders are preparing for the ‘real risk’ of a second wave of coronavirus to hit the UK, but believe such a resurgence is avoidable on the island.

Left to right: Health & Social Care president Heidi Soulsby, Deputy Gavin St Pier, and director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28411172)
Left to right: Health & Social Care president Heidi Soulsby, Deputy Gavin St Pier, and director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28411172)

Huge crowds gathered on UK beaches and ignored social distancing rules during the recent heatwave, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a dramatic easing of lockdown from next Saturday, with England’s pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers among the businesses allowed to reopen.

The rapid changes come as the UK’s contact tracing system is still bedding in, and a ‘world-beating’ app was found to not actually work.

The chair of the Civil Contingencies Authority, Deputy Gavin St Pier, was too diplomatic to cast comment on the UK’s approach, but said the island would remain very alert to the situation across the water.

‘My view is that we have to maintain a very close watch on what’s happening elsewhere, and we have to continue to be cautious and quite conservative in the approach we take.

‘And until we’re comfortable that the risks are low and manageable, then it is in the community’s interest that we are vigilant because otherwise it would be quite easy for us to lose some of the gains that we have, and I think the last thing that anybody wants is to have to re-impose any restrictions unless we absolutely have to because of all the consequences that come with that in terms of the economy and people’s mental health and wellbeing – that’s more important than rushing to reopen every travel route.’

Historical pandemics have shown that second and even third peaks of infection are likely.

Parts of Germany, Portugal, the US, and Australia have recently seen a resurgence of cases after they lifted their lockdown restrictions.

Health officials are anticipating that new cases of coronavirus will pop up on the island, but there is confidence that with proper discipline and adherence to the Public Health measures and an absence of complacency, a second outbreak could be averted.

The borders are Guernsey’s biggest defence against coronavirus and two significant changes to the restrictions will happen next month.

Firstly a pilot is being held to test travellers for Covid-19 on the seventh day after their arrival in Guernsey, and everyone who tests negative will be allowed to skip the remaining seven days of self-isolation.

Also an air bridge with the Isle of Man is being established, which could be useful for finance workers and the sporting community who are eager for competition.

The stakes are high, but Deputy St Pier said the risks have been assessed as low.

‘We’re exploring it at a time when we’re in a good place, which is important, because it means we’ve got spare capacity, we’ve got resources to do it, we’ve got spare testing capacity, so it’s right to explore how to do it, but until we’re comfortable I think we’re right to be cautious, and I think the vast majority of the population are absolutely behind that from everything that I hear, read and see.’

Optimism, vigilance, discipline and patience are unusual bedfellows, but expectations are high that they will lead to Guernsey’s continued success.

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