Approval for review into Covid response

GUERNSEY’S performance in handling the Covid-19 pandemic has come a step closer to being formally reviewed.

Deputy Andrew Taylor, left, and Deputy Andy Cameron. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30439257)
Deputy Andrew Taylor, left, and Deputy Andy Cameron. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30439257)

During debate on the transfer of emergency powers to the medical officer of health, a successful amendment laid by Deputy Andrew Taylor, pictured, means Policy & Resources has now been instructed to set out formal proposals for a review of the States’ strategic response and its effectiveness in managing the impact of the crisis.

It will now be required to present these in April.

His amendment was seconded by P&R vice-president Deputy Heidi Soulsby, who is also an adviser to – and a former member of – the Civil Contingencies Authority.

However, it was laid without reference to P&R president and CCA chairman Deputy Peter Ferbrache, who described the lack of an approach to him as ‘deplorable and offensive’.

LISTEN TO SIMON DE LA RUE AND HELEN BOWDITCH'S BITE-SIZED STATES ROUND-UP:

Deputy Taylor said there had been a lack of scrutiny over the government’s response to the pandemic and that questions on the floor of the States assembly had often been received with unnecessary hostility.

There was a tendency, he said, ‘to lump everyone into either an anti-vaxx group, because of their stance on this, or assume they are fully in agreement’.

There was widespread support for the amendment among deputies. Scrutiny Management Committee president Deputy Yvonne Burford called for SMC and P&R jointly to appoint a third party through an open tender process which could gather evidence, conduct hearings and take legal advice.

This reviewing body should have a set budget and should have access to CCA papers and minutes, she said, otherwise the whole exercise would be a waste of money.

This led to a wide-ranging discussion on the legality of disclosing CCA minutes, which concluded that it could be done.

Deputy Peter Roffey was among those supporting the idea of a review but he questioned the amendment’s stipulation that it should look at events from 12 March 2020 onwards, that being the date of the first convening of the CCA.

‘It’s been really impressive, I think, the way the two CCAs have handled [the pandemic],’ he said.

‘My big question mark is whether Guernsey was a bit complacent from when the Wuhan outbreak happened to its spreading to Europe.

‘Did the island engage with the care homes sufficiently, to make sure that they were prepared for that eventuality? Did we buy enough PPE or at least get the orders in to be prepared for it? Had we done the planning at the hospital? Those questions relate to the period before an emergency was declared here.’

Deputy Lyndon Trott, who oversaw economic support for businesses prior to the 2020 election, said he hoped the review would highlight the sheer number of self-employed islanders who were surviving week-to-week even before the pandemic.

Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq questioned the likely cost of a review, widely estimated to be in the region of £100,000, while Deputy Al Brouard said the very people required to contribute would be those who were busy helping the Bailiwick to recover.

The amendment was carried by 32 votes to 4, with Deputies Sue Aldwell, Al Brouard, Dave Mahoney and Bob Murray the four to oppose it.

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