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Two Ministers Wanted Accelerated Roadmap

The Economic Development and External Relations Ministers asked in March for Jersey's roadmap to recovery to be accelerated.

That has been revealed in the latest batch of published STAC minutes.

They show Senators Lyndon Farnham and Ian Gorst asked STAC to 'consider the social and economic benefit' of moving forward at a quicker pace, given the low levels of Covid-19 and vaccine programme progress.

In the 22 March meeting, Acting Director General Richard Corrigan said the Ministers wanted Stages 5 and 6 of the reconnection to be merged and brought forward from 12 April to 5 April.

"They were coming under pressure from some of the larger firms, which were not able to have their staff in the workplace, but they were able to mix in restaurants, which led them to believe that the balance of harms was out of kilter.

"The Chair suggested that in order to make an informed decision on the request by the Ministers, the Cell would require greater detail on the harms that were being caused to the hospitality and business sectors, such as the levels of economic support that had been provided. Over the coming days, thought could be given to any measures that could potentially be relaxed and to the merits of combining Stages 5 and 6 of the reconnection roadmap and the Cell would reconsider it at its next meeting."

The following week, STAC met again to discuss the topic, where it was agreed that a gap of a month should be kept between reconnection stages to assess the impact of measures being relaxed and to allow more islanders to be vaccinated, amid concerns over emerging 'variants of concern'.

The Interim Director of Public Health Policy, Alex Khaldi, said the rationale for a staged approach was to avoid a third wave and it was important to have mitigations in place in case case numbers started to increase.

"It was his and his officers’ role to take a professional view of what actions it was safe for the Island to take. He cautioned against making direct comparisons with Guernsey, but indicated that there had been a clear willingness by politicians in that Island to introduce lockdown arrangements at the first sign of any significant transmission of the virus in the community.

"The Cell agreed that if Competent Authority Ministers wished to accelerate through the stages of the roadmap, they would need to be prepared to also take rapid and decisive action in the event of VOCs (variants of concern) coming to light in the Island, or increased instances of severe disease, for example."

It was also revealed in these STAC minutes that the South African variant of coronavirus had been detected in samples sent from Jersey to Porton Down, along with the Delta, or Indian, variant.

The government did announce that the presence of the Delta variant on-island, but not the South African one.

The STAC minutes also revealed that a £36 charge per Covid-19 test for people coming into Jersey was considered.

It stated that doing so could recover between £7.5million and £10.8million.

However Patrick Armstrong, the chair of STAC, said it would discriminate against lower-paid people and migrant workers, which could stop them from coming to work here.

"The Chief Economic Advisor indicated that it might be necessary to draw a distinction between Islanders and those travelling to Jersey and that free testing for visitors would be an implicit subsidy to the tourism sector, which would require further consideration.

"The Interim Director, Public Health Policy, acknowledged that the issues raised around equity and demand were valid, but that future work would be undertaken on the principles and that the paper sought to provoke thought around the subject of charging, rather than recommending it as policy."

The tests remain free.

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