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Chief Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 06 January 2021

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Good afternoon.

Thank you for joining us today as we head into our circuit break lockdown tonight.  While most of the measures come into force from one minute past midnight tonight, I know that there has been a lot of activity in the private, public and third sectors to get ready. Thank you.

Before I go any further, I would like to invite the Minister of Health & Social Care to update us on testing and our contact tracing.

Thank you, David. It will of course take some time to get a full picture of spread in our community.

Turning to progress with our contact tracing, I’ll hand over to our Director of Public Health Dr Ewart.

My thanks to everyone who has come forward following our appeal and thank you for being responsible and doing the right thing.

None of the decisions that we took yesterday were easy. But as I described yesterday, given what we know about the virus and about the wider context in which we sit, it was right to be bold. We do not claim to have all the answers at this stage. But it was clear to all in the Council of Ministers that the worst course of action would have been taking no decision at all.

One set of decisions that was particularly difficult was around schools. I know that this impacts a lot of people on the Island and – rightly – is extremely emotive.

As well as the Minister of Health & Social Care and our Director of Public Health, we are also joined today by Dr Alex Allinson, the Minister for Education, Sport & Culture who will be able to update us on preparations currently underway in our schools.

Before I hand over to Dr Allinson, I would like to pick up on a couple of points of clarification from yesterday’s announcements. There was a lot to communicate yesterday and if some things were not clear then I apologise.

Much of what we announced yesterday would have been familiar to people. It was broadly what we experienced at different moments last Spring.

One aspect that was new was our approach regarding face coverings. I know this has led to some questions from the public. I would like to take a minute or two to clarify.

Do please excuse me if I cover some of the same ground as yesterday but I want to ensure we are as clear as possible.

The overarching headline is simple. We strongly recommend that you wear a face covering whenever you are out of your house. As the Director of Public Health described yesterday, the more scientists observe and understand the virus, the more they are of the view that face coverings play a really important role in reducing the risk to the wearer and those around. Face coverings can have a real impact on reducing the spread of the virus.

I hope that is clear. This should apply in the vast majority of cases.

There is some detail that it is important for me to mention.

  • A face covering will be compulsory on public transport.
  • For your daily exercise, it is not compulsory.  It is a matter for you. If you can wear one, then please do. But we fully appreciate that some exercise makes this impractical. But please be responsible. Stay away from other people.
  • There is an exception to this last point. Under the new regime for returning residents, if their Day 1 and Day 7 tests are negative, they will be able to start doing outside exercise again. But for these people a face covering will be compulsory. They will have to tailor their exercise accordingly.
  • As to those who are still in a workplace beyond tonight, for whatever reason, the same advice applies.  When moving around the workplace, and in any communal settings please wear a face covering.   If you are sat or stood at your workplace and socially distanced on your own for prolonged periods, then we do understand a face covering may not always be necessary. But for the moment we are content that this is a matter for employees and for their employers.

I hope that helps. Please remember that if you have any queries, do please go to our website or call the Community Support line on 686262. Both are now up and running.

I have heard that the Community Support Line has been inundated and people are having difficulty getting through. We have allocated extra staff to it and this should improve. In the meantime, if you can use the website please do so that those who really need the phone line can use it.

Two points that they are being asked a lot are around child care and house moving. Maybe I could address those here.

People are asking if they can move house. As we did back in the Spring, we would ask that if you can delay until the end of the circuit break then please do.

However, if it is not possible – by which I mean you are contractually obliged to proceed – house moves can take place but only in accordance with the strictest possible social-distancing measures in place. But to be clear, house viewings should not proceed at this time.

On the childcare point, people have been asking whether a grandparent or other close family member can look after children during this lockdown period. The answer is that yes – for children of essential workers only – as long as that family member is not shielding and as long as the children were dropped door to door. No popping inside for a cup of tea please.

At this point I would like to hand over to the Minister for Education, Sport & Culture who I know would like to cover a number of important areas including hub schools, nurseries, vouchers to replace free school meals and the start of remote learning. The Minister will I am sure also share our latest thinking on exams following a statement by the UK Education Secretary just this afternoon.

Midnight tonight sees us heading into a new phase in our struggle against COVID. I would like to go through the major changes that will come into force for these next twenty one days.

  • The most important point is that we need everyone to stay at home as much as possible.
  • Only go into work if you cannot work from home. And if you absolutely have to go in, then please ensure rigorous social distancing.
  • If you do need to go out then please wear a face covering and maintain a two metre distance from anyone who is not a member of your household.  Face coverings will be compulsory in public transport.
  • Please do not gather indoors or out with anyone who is not a member of your household.  
  • Yes you can go out to exercise but please only alone or with members of your household. And as mentioned earlier, please be considerate to others.
  • As you have just heard, schools and nurseries for the twenty-one day period, will only be available to children of critical workers and vulnerable children.
  • All hospitality, lifestyle businesses, leisure facilities and non-essential shops will close tonight. The only exception for hospitality will be for take away or delivery.  No eating in.
  • When you go shopping, please minimise numbers. One person from a household – or one person or one person and a child only if you are a single parent.  And please think of others. There are no problems with supplies. Hoarding is not necessary and will only impact on other members of our community.
  • If you shielded last time, do so again. Initially for one week while we review.
  • We would strongly encourage you not to travel off-Island. But from tomorrow morning, if you are returning to the Island, you cannot self-isolate with anyone you didn’t travel with. And you will need to take – and pay for – three tests.  If you don’t want to do three tests you will have to isolate for twenty-one days.

I know none of this will be easy. We have been incredibly lucky for the last six months or so. I am hopeful that if we get this circuit break right – and if everyone plays their part – we can get back to that enviable position.

Meanwhile, our vaccination programme will continue and I have asked the Health & Social Care Minister to give us a full update on that tomorrow.

I mentioned yesterday that the Treasury has put back in place a range of financial support. They have now put out come additional detail on that and I hope the Treasury Minister will brief you in more detail this week.

I will pause and take questions from the media. 

Thank you for those questions. And thank you to the media for the important role they play in getting information out to our Island community.

And I would like to thank everyone out there for the determination and resolve I know you will show over these next twenty-one days. It is something of which this Island is rightly proud. We did it before and can do it again.

Let’s work together to get this done. Let’s support each other. Be kind to each other. Look out for each other. Be considerate of others. And hopefully we can come out of this circuit, free again of this virus.

Please remember the basics.

  • Stay at home as much as you possibly can.
  • If you do need to go out then wear a face covering as much as you possibly can.
  • If you have any symptoms then stay at home and call 111 as soon as you possibly can.

Make the right decisions to keep you, your family and your Island safe. To protect what we have achieved – and this time to protect our vaccination programme.

Stay safe. Be responsible and whenever you can please stay at home.