The Deputy Chief Minister has moved to reassure Islanders that they can continue with their Christmas plans after some events were cancelled or went online this week.
Senator Lyndon Farnham said that businesses would not be forced to close like last Christmas as long as the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 remained low.
His comments come as the number of active Covid cases in the Island rose to 1,014 with seven people in hospital with the virus, although the government has not made clear how many are in hospital because they need treatment for Covid as opposed to how many have tested positive.
There are also 10,059 direct contacts of positive cases.
Earlier this week, the Jersey Round Table announced that its annual charity ball had been postponed.
The organisation said it felt it was not the right decision to push ahead amid the rise in Covid-19 cases and employment adviser Law at Work said that its Breakfast Briefing, which was due to be held today at the Grand Hotel, had moved online due to the increased case numbers.
Senator Farnham said: ‘We are in a much better-protected position coming into Christmas this year due to the high number of vaccinations. The focus has to be on protecting clinical capacity and at this moment, we have no plans to change our current approach towards restrictions if hospitalisations remain low. If they increase, then we may have to review things but we want to keep businesses as open as possible.’
He added: ‘As long as people are sensible and follow the guidance, then there is no reason why they cannot enjoy their Christmas plans and go to events or parties. If you are going to do so, just make sure you do the responsible thing and take a lateral-flow test before going to any event. But it is down to everyone’s personal choice and I understand some Islanders may err on the side of caution There has been a good public response to Government advice so far and the best thing people can do to ensure we have the safest Christmas is to get vaccinated and if eligible get the booster jab”.
Simon Harper, who runs Harpers Catering has called for the Government to give a clear message about what will happen this Christmas. He said “people have been getting twitchy with the increased case numbers but the number of hospitalisations remains low and I don’t see why we cannot carry on as normal. We cannot afford to have a repeat of last Christmas”.
Claire Boscq, Chief Executive of the Jersey Hospitality Association, said: ‘We are watching the rise in the number of cases very carefully and urge anyone visiting hospitality venues to follow the latest government advice on mask-wearing and taking regular lateral-flow tests’.
Changes to Jersey’s vaccination team will happen in a phased approach from this month. Becky Sherrington, Head of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, will be joining the Care Commission as the new Chief Inspector from the start of next year.
Becky will be succeeded by Emma Baker who will begin a handover this month and start full time in the role from early next year. In her previous role as Lead Nurse for Infection Prevention and Control (IPaC), Emma led IPaC through many elements of COVID-19 preparedness and response throughout the pandemic, helping to deliver an island-wide, high quality, safe service.
In addition, Ross Barnes, Operational Lead for the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, will be joining Health and Community Services as Head of Non-Clinical Support Services at the start of December. Bernard Place, who oversaw operations for Jersey’s Personal Protective Equipment Cell in 2020, will replace Ross as Operational Lead for the vaccination programme.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, said: “I would like to thank Becky and Ross for their incredibly hard work over the last 14 months. They have both been intrinsic to the success of our vaccination programme, and their dedication and hard work has been felt by many Islanders. I wish them all the very best as they move into their new positions at the Care Commission and in Health and Community Services. I would also like to welcome Emma and Bernard to the vaccination team. I know their experience will be invaluable in the ongoing success of the programme”.
And finally, as the Christmas lights were switched on by Father Christmas in St. Helier last night, thousands of islanders gathered in the Royal Square to celebrate. The Christmas parade also took place starting at Millennium Town Park and finishing at the Weighbridge, via the Royal Square. Town shops were open until 9pm and will continue to open late every Thursday until Christmas.
The FTSE 100 opened higher on the back of positive retail and consumer data but has subsequently fallen 17 points into the red, amid confirmation that a Covid lockdown will begin in Austria next week.
European markets finished lower. France’s CAC 40 is off 0.21% and Germany’s DAX is lower by 0.18%.
U.S. stock futures were mixed, with the dollar strengthening and oil prices falling, due to rising Covid-19 cases leading to an acceleration of social distancing and business restrictions in Europe.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 edged down 0.2% after the broad-market index closed up 0.3% Thursday at an all-time high. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures declined 0.4% Friday. Nasdaq-100 futures climbed 0.3%, pointing to advances in technology stocks after the opening bell.
Asian markets finished broadly lower today with shares in Hong Kong leading the region. The Hang Seng is down 1.29% while China’s Shanghai Composite is off 0.47% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 is lower by 0.30%.
Christmas shopping despite surging inflation
According to official numbers, retail sales increased for the first time in six months in October, indicating that customers began their search for Christmas items early, as pressure on household budgets tightened.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded a 0.8% increase in volumes in October compared to September, with clothing items leading the way. It reported that fashion sales were just 0.5% below pre-pandemic levels, adding that “some retailers (were) suggesting that early Christmas trading had boosted sales.”
Non-food led an overall increase, despite warnings about product availability in some sections, although fuel sales fell drastically to normal levels as a result of the ending of the panic-buying crisis which was sparked by a scarcity of drivers to transport supplies.
According to ONS data, online sales plunged to levels that have not been seen since the beginning of the pandemic. This has provided some relief to physical stores as they prepare for the busiest season of the year.
The data implies some momentum following the previous set of GDP numbers, which highlighted a slowdown as rising costs, linked to global supply chain issues and labour shortages affecting the economy.
Ryanair withdraws from LSE
Ryanair has confirmed plans to withdraw from the London Stock Exchange, in what will be viewed as a post-Brexit insult to the UK’s financial centre.
The no-frills airline announced at the beginning of the month that it was considering the move due to a drop in trading volumes of its shares on the London Stock Exchange this year.
It announced on Friday that it wanted to delist after trade concluded on December 17th.
From that moment forward, the airline stated that it would only be listed on the Euronext Dublin exchange.
Following the news, shares in the company dropped back at the opening of the market.
Ryanair’s move comes after the voting rights of its UK shareholders were reduced following the country’s exit from the EU, and it coincides with other corporations making attempts to simplify their share structures and decrease expenses.
Fewer city visits
According to research, the number of people in city centres throughout the UK is still lower than pre-pandemic levels on weekdays, indicating that many workers have not returned to work.
According to the Centre for Cities, footfall in the centres has returned to normal on weekends but is still 25% lower on weekdays than it was before COVID-19.
Footfall in downtown London is half of what it was before the epidemic, while it was 64% in Glasgow’s city centre and 73% in Manchester’s city centre.
Working from home was reported by one-third of working persons polled between October 20 and October 31.
According to earlier data from the Office for National Statistics, one-third of working individuals are projected to work from home at least once a week.