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Medical Director: 'We Can't Live In This State Forever'

Jersey's Medical Director has urged islanders to resume going to the hospital or seeing their GP for health concerns, just as they would before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Patrick Armstrong has reassured people that it is safe to go and be treated for other conditions, as measures have been taken to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to non-infected patients.

These include temperature screening for all General Hospital staff, patients and visitors.

He's told Channel 103 that as the island's lockdown restrictions are being eased, hospital operations are beginning to return to normal, with COVID-19 patients being treated in separate wards. More hospital services are due to resume towards the end of May.

Mr Armstrong says while we need to try to resume life as normal where we can, whilst still adhering to the current restrictions:

"From our perspective, as we start to come out of the lockdown, we can get back to what we'd call 'business as usual'. Within the hospital, there's been a significant reduction in the normal levels of treatment and procedures we'd usually be giving.

"We're hoping to restart that in a controlled way, and there are significant challenges around that, but we're aware that people probably haven't been getting medical help as much as they usually do, possibly 'sitting on' symptoms they really should be seeking help for.

The Parade entrance to Jersey's General Hospital

"I'd strongly encourage people who are worried about their health, not to worry about contacting their GP or using hospital services. We're here and we really do want people to present with other conditions as we come out of the lockdown because it's not good to 'sit on' those conditions for long periods."

The Medical Director has told Channel 103 that the decision on when to move to the next phase of lockdown will largely be driven by the rate of infection and how many new cases are detected across the island.

The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, has promised Jersey's 'R-number' - the rate at which a disease' spreads - will be made public tomorrow. We've previously only been told it is 'below one'.

Mr Armstrong says officials will be closely monitoring how the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increases or decreases as new relaxed measures are introduced.

He says there are other factors to consider too, which justify Ministers' decision to begin easing the lockdown restrictions:

"We've got to remember that the measures that are in place can cause other harms, to the economy, to the island's social fabric, and to other health conditions. We can't live in this state forever, so it's important to begin adjusting to normal activities where we can - but as things are at the moment, it's important to keep to small gatherings with up to five others, while maintaining the physical distancing rules."

Re-opening indoor public spaces and the eventual re-opening of Jersey's airport and harbour are said to be among the riskiest changes over the coming weeks and months, but he says they will be carefully managed - as and when the time is right.

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