Given the hermetic nature of our borders and the strict self-isolation requirements for most incoming travellers, it is concerning when an infection spontaneously occurs in the community. Public Health believe they have now identified the source of the infection so it is important that they provide the public with more details about the circumstances.
There are concerns within the general public that the source of the cluster might have been a critical worker or business tunnel user as both have a special status which gave them some exemptions from travel restrictions. It is not necessary to identify individuals by name but we should be told how this person became infected and then how they were able to go on and infect others. These are key details. Public Health must also explain what steps are being taken to prevent it happening again.
Maintaining public trust and confidence is essential to ensure compliance with the draconian regulations which have been imposed upon us. It is therefore essential that Public Health and the Civil Contingencies Authority continue to be transparent.
Rue de la Mer,
Editor’s footnote: a spokesperson for the Health & Social Care replies:
Thank you for giving the States of Guernsey another opportunity to clarify the situation regarding the recent contained cluster of Covid-19 infections. We do appreciate that this inevitably caused some concern in the community given our continued, collective investment as a community to manage the risks of Covid-19 and we’re pleased to have opportunity to hopefully put your readers’ minds at rest.
Throughout Covid-19, the States of Guernsey has sought to be transparent with the community, recognising the importance of maintaining trust. But on rare occasions this raises key ethical and practical challenges in how can we maintain this open dialogue with the wider community while also protecting the privacy of individuals and the integrity of the very processes we’re using to keep our community safe. It is a fine balance and an area which has very carefully been considered.
It is important to stress that our contact tracing protocols are part of the Bailiwick’s strategy to contain the virus as border controls alone, while our first line of defence, are not guaranteed to prevent the virus reaching the Bailiwick while people still travel. Scientific studies also show how a large group of people who are infected with the virus may not exhibit or experience strong symptoms, which is one of the reasons we have introduced a test on the day of arrival in the Bailiwick.
In this example, as with all other cases of Covid-19 in the Bailiwick, extensive and successful contact tracing with all those affected has taken place. This requires those islanders affected to share personal information in respect of their recent activity and this will be most effective when islanders trust that this information will be used appropriately and in the community’s best interests. This work enabled us not only to very successfully and very quickly contain the cluster but also to evaluate whether any wider changes, or further action, were needed.
We’ve been planning for various scenarios for many months, knowing that reintroduction of the virus was always possible. We’ve always been clear that even with the measures in place and the fantastic efforts of the community, the prevalence of the virus in near jurisdictions continues to pose a significant risk to the islands. Recent steps by the Civil Contingencies Authority show how measures are kept under constant review so to protect the community, and the community should be assured that all appropriate steps have been taken and there is no risk to the community nor the need for any further action.