Secrecy around Covid-19 response still remains

ISLANDERS will continue to be denied information about the response to Covid-19 that is being freely shared in both the UK and Jersey.

New chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority Deputy Peter Ferbrache. (28914393)
New chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority Deputy Peter Ferbrache. (28914393)

Both jurisdictions publish the advice which is being relied on by politicians as they make decisions about lockdown measures, test and trace, travel restrictions and how any vaccine would be distributed.

When asked by the Guernsey Press in September whether Guernsey would do the same here, the then Civil Contingencies Authority said no. That position has now been confirmed by the new post holders. The CCA is led by Policy & Resources president Peter Ferbrache, who used his opening speech in the States to stress the importance of transparency.

He has not explained why secrecy needs to still surround the Covid-19 advice, a spokesperson for the States simply said: ‘The Chairman of the CCA has confirmed the position remains unchanged in relation to the previous decision on the release of CCA minutes.’

The UK government publishes Sage minutes outlining the scientific and health issues discussed and actions and advice agreed during each meeting of the group during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Normally that would happen at the end of an emergency, but it decided in May that given the exceptional nature of the pandemic they should be released now – it wanted to ensure there is as much available evidence and material as possible to the general public so there is full transparency on how science advice is being formulated. Jersey has also voted to publish minutes of scientific meetings that have aided government decisions on Covid-19.

In September, Deputy Gavin St Pier, who was leading the CCA, said that releasing minutes of CCA meetings, which outline in detail discussions as members question and challenge all possible scenarios, is simply not proportionate or necessary in order to meet the principles of transparency.

‘It is also not sensible or smart given the pandemic remains ongoing and the 2012 Civil Contingencies Law prohibits the release of material that could damage the work of the authority,’ he said at the time.

It has never been explained how the work of the authority would be damaged by releasing old advice in line with the UK decision.

There are 10 known active cases of Covid-19 in Guernsey and 152 in Jersey.

Read the Guernsey Press opinion column here

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