Jersey’s freedom date for the final lifting of pandemic restrictions has been delayed by a week. The move comes as nightclubs and event organisers were preparing for full reopening and the permittance of crowds which was due to happen on Monday and was set to mark the final stage of the island’s reconnection roadmap.
While some restrictions will be lifted as planned on Monday – including the legal requirement for mask wearing to be removed – nightclubs will have to wait at least a further week before reopening.
Ministers have said that restrictions on numbers of guests allowed to attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony will be lifted on Monday and while mask wearing will still be advised in healthcare settings and where physical distancing is difficult to achieve, the requirement for masks will be removed. The exceptions to this will be on public transport, in the bus station or at the harbour or airport where masks will still be required by law.
Current plans are that limits on gatherings in private homes and gardens will be lifted on Monday 21 June and standing only alcohol drinking in pubs and restaurants will be allowed. The decision to defer the final stage of reconnection was made after the first community transmission cases in almost 2 months were discovered earlier this week, and amid growing fears about variants of the virus. Ministers said that the delay was taken because of the emergence of 10 to 11 active Covid -19 cases among people who had attended a number of private parties and hospitality venues. The Island currently has 22 known cases of Covid -19. Young Islanders between the ages of 18 to 24 can book their vaccination from today to start from Sunday.
Chief Minister John Le Fondre said ‘We are acutely aware that this will be a disappointment to Islanders and businesses who had planned for full reconnection this coming Monday.’ ‘We recognise this will be particularly difficult for nightclubs who have long anticipated reopening after 18 months of closure.’ The Chief Minister also confirmed that Covid Status Certificates had started to be sent out to islanders who had received 2 vaccine doses. By today every person who has had both doses before 28 May should have received their certificates. Anyone fully vaccinated after that date should receive their certificate, in the post, within 2 weeks of their second dose being administered. The Certificates are intended to be used as proof of vaccination when travelling abroad.
Meanwhile Holidaymakers have been turning to Jersey with a surge in bookings in recent days amid uncertainty over International Travel. Last Weekend the UK Government announced that it would be removing Portugal from the list of green areas meaning people returning from the country must isolate themselves for 10 days. The move appears to have provided fresh impetus for the Island’s tourism season with visitors now viewing Jersey as an alternative.
Ministers have also announced further changes to the Islands border controls. From Tuesday next week passengers arriving in Jersey who have been double vaccinated are to face less stringent testing and isolation the Government has confirmed. While those coming from the UK, Ireland, and the Crown dependencies, (The Common Travel Area) will from Tuesday have greater freedoms on arrival if they have been jabbed at least 2 weeks earlier, and there will also be significant widening of restrictive measures for those coming from areas of the UK worst affected by the virus. With effect from Sunday morning, the whole of Scotland will be classed as red, while 28 more districts in England will be subject to Jersey’s emergency break, taking the total of affected districts in England to 54.
The Government is seeking to maintain the Island’s travel links as much as possible in the belief that being fully vaccinated provides high levels of protection even in the face of the more transmissible Delta variant that is now dominant in the UK. From Tuesday anyone, fully vaccinated, who is arriving from a red region within the CTA, will be tested on arrival in Jersey and will only need to isolate until they receive a negative result from this test. If they remain on the island (80% of visitors’ stay in Jersey for less than a week) they will also have to attend a follow up test on day eight. From the same date there will no longer be an amber category for the UK nations, with all areas not covered by the emergency break treated as Green. For those that are fully vaccinated this means one test on arrival but no isolation requirement, while those yet to be fully vaccinated will have tests on days zero and eight, with mandatory isolation until a negative result from the first test is received. The prospect of wider opening of the island’s borders for global destinations in the immediate future has receded.
Ministers said the changes have been introduced to provide more certainty for visitors who will avoid having to make last minute cancellations due to any changes to regions. Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham said ’we believe that moving to Green and red areas, without the amber rating would make the system simpler and clearer without posing undue risk for islanders bearing in mind the efficient testing and contact tracing processes in operation here, these changes are proportionate and will maintain connectivity, whilst also protecting Islanders.
In the UK more than 7,500 new Covid cases were recorded on Wednesday, the biggest daily increase since February. Speculation has been increasing that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson may delay the UK’s final easing of restrictions scheduled for 21 June.
In other news, it has been announced that Whizz Air will start direct flights to Doncaster and Cardiff from next month. The Hungarian low fare airline is due to operate the services on Mondays and Fridays from 9 July with fares starting at £17.99 one way. And finally, a Royal visit has been announced; Princess Anne will visit Jersey later this month. She will officially open Les Quennevais School, along with the new ‘multi Million pound state of the art’ sports centre ‘Strive,’ as well as the new butterfly centre at Jersey Zoo where she has been a regular visitor for many years.
All major US stock indices were looking positive yesterday, although the Dow Jones 30 only added 0.1%, with JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs among the names pulling the index down. NASDAQ100 closed the day 1.1% higher, while the S&P 500 was at a record intraday high thanks to some technology names.
Bitcoin continued its positive momentum, climbing above $37,000 this morning despite nearly all top 10 cryptos being flat this morning. The altcoin market was mostly lower, although Uniswap was the only top 10 crypto that registered losses of more than 3%.
The FTSE 100 was up marginally yesterday, with BT Group and Auto Trader Group leading, at +6.5% apiece. BT’s share price jump was thanks to telecoms group Altice, becoming the firm’s biggest shareholder after taking a 12.1% stake in the firm. So far this year, BT Group’s share price is up by close to 50%. Auto Trader’s share price is up 13.3% over the past month, putting it into positive territory for the year.
While the FTSE 100 opened 10 points higher, the GER DAX 30 was up 28 points and the FRA CAC 40 opened 7 points higher.
UK Economy lagging behind
Despite the UK economy growing 2.3% in April, its fastest monthly growth since July last year, the economy is still 3.7% below its pre-pandemic peak. The Office for National Statistics reported that retail sales grew significantly in April with a monthly increase of 9.2%, while bars, shops and restaurants saw an increase in spending. Caravan parks and holiday lets grew 68.6%, with hairdressers and other personal services growing a similar 63.5%.
However, regardless of its growth and making up four-fifths of the economy, the services sector still remains 4.% below its pre-pandemic level while the economy as a whole remains 3.7% below its pre-pandemic peak.
“Falls in construction and production, which were less affected by the 2021 lockdown, remind us that our focus should now be on the prospects for the economy in the second half of the year, after temporary reopening effects have ceased to provide strong monthly increases,” said Rory Macqueen, principal economist at the National Institute for Economic and Social Research.
British Airways staff back on furlough
British Airways is also facing challenges as it has had to put thousands of its staff members back on furlough due to the delays to the restart of international travel. Unfortunately, only a small number of countries have been put on the government’s green list. In addition, official advice still remains, that people should not visit amber countries for leisure. This has left the travel industry almost at a standstill once again, as the majority of people are not taking the chance to travel.
Whilst they wait for international travel to recommence many of the airline’s staff, mostly management staff as well as staff not connected to safety operations and plane critical roles. will go back onto the flexible furlough scheme and work part time.
A British Airways spokesperson said: “It’s vital the government follows its risk-based framework to re-open international travel as soon as possible, putting more low-risk countries, like the US, on its green list at the next available opportunity.”