Client Weekly Update – 23 December

Jersey is hit by four viruses at same time

Jersey has been hit by a wave of illness after four viruses – flu, Covid, scarlet fever and RSV – all surged at the same time. The rise in infections, which has decimated some businesses’ staffing levels in the run-up to Christmas, is believed to be the result of weakened immunity following two years of Covid restrictions. Professor Peter Bradley, Jersey’s director of public health, said that despite the increase in viruses, the Hospital was coping with demand. ‘We have a range of winter viruses, which is quite usual,’ he said. Explaining that a lack of social interaction during lockdown was likely to have weakened Islanders’ immunity, Professor Bradley said: ‘It’s reasonable to assume that when we are in contact with a virus, we build up immunity. ‘We are slightly more vulnerable and that’s why vaccinating is more important at the moment. ‘There is reason to assume that limited social interactions have had an impact. ’The number of cases of scarlet fever recorded in Jersey this month is more than double usual December figures. A total of 40 cases of the bacteria-based bug have been seen, with parents being advised to be vigilant.

Scarlet fever, which mainly affects children and young people, is caused by the bacteria group known as Strep A, and although infections are usually mild, they can develop into the more serious invasive Group A Strep infection, which has led to the deaths of at least 19 children in the UK since September. Professor Bradley said: ‘I’d urge parents to be vigilant for symptoms and seek medical advice from your GP, or the out-of-hours GP service .‘Early treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection, so it’s important to spot the symptoms and act quickly. ‘Children aged two years to school year 11 who have not had their annual flu vaccination can also receive these now from their GP surgeries.’

Despite the challenge of an intensified spike in viruses, Professor Bradley added that there were no current shortages of antibiotics. ‘I do know that the Hospital is coping well on a daily basis and the chief pharmaceutical officer confirmed that there are enough supplies of antibiotics.’ He added that usual public-health advice continues to apply, including maintaining good hygiene, covering mouths when coughing, taking lateral-flow tests and using hand gel in public places. Meanwhile, the most recent Covid data released by the government last Thursday showed that there were 815 known active cases in the Island, with 23 cases in hospital

Islanders faced with Christmas travel chaos from strikes and bad weather

Islanders travelling away for Christmas are being warned of possible disruption caused by a perfect storm of strikes and bad weather. Tens of thousands of workers are set to join picket lines over the coming days in a wave of industrial action which could cause chaos for travellers. More than 1,000 Border Force staff are set to walk out between 23 and 26 December and again between 28 and 31 at Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow airports. Around 350 ground handling staff at Heathrow employed by Menzies were also due to strike over a pay dispute, but this was suspended following talks with Unite the Union. However, walkouts scheduled for 29 December could still go ahead, pending a vote by Unite’s members over a revised pay offer.

National Rail has warned that reduced services will continue to operate until Sunday 8 January, with ‘inevitable’ disruption expected as a result of strikes likely to affect most train companies across the network. Some routes are expected to have no trains at all at times during the action. ‘The rail industry is working hard to minimise the effect that this will have on services but it is inevitable that services will be cancelled or severely disrupted,’ the organisation has said in an update on its website. Meanwhile, some flights at major UK airports such as Heathrow have fallen victim to high winds – which are also understood to have created difficulties for baggage handling staff. Condor has warned of ‘significant’ disruption to its conventional and high-speed services for freight and passengers, with wind speeds of up to 50 knots and wave heights above five metres predicted at times in the English Channel this week. The company is putting on additional high-speed sailings to the UK and France. Elwyn Dop, Condor’s operations director, said: ‘The forecast has and continues to be really changeable, so using the best available data at the time, we have been prudent by contacting travellers in advance to notify them of the potential for disruption and to offer alternatives wherever possible.’

A Ports of Jersey spokesperson said forecast weather conditions ‘may see some disruption to travel’. ‘Condor Ferries have already made alternative arrangements for some sailings, and cold weather in areas of the UK has seen delays at some airports,’ they added. They said the UK Border Force strikes were expected to have ‘little or no impact’ on passengers travelling between Jersey and the UK, but added that those travelling internationally were ‘likely to face longer queues’. ‘Anyone travelling on strike days should keep up to date with advice from airlines and airports before setting off. There is no impact on direct flights from Jersey to Madeira and Tenerife, as the UK border force strikes only apply in the UK,’ they continued.‘ Ports of Jersey is in regular contact with its airline partners and will pass on any relevant updates to Jersey passengers.’

Progress’ on getting French tourists to come back to Jersey

Jersey could see an influx of French tourists once again next summer after ‘significant progress’ was made over the use of ID cards for travel, the External Relations Minister has said. The number of visitors from France has plunged after post-Brexit travel restrictions made it more difficult for Europeans to visit the UK and the Crown Dependencies. However, following recent discussions with the French Minister of State for Europe, Laurence Boone, and the French Secretary of State for the Sea, Hervé Berville, in Paris, Deputy Philip Ozouf says he is confident that the problems can be resolved. The reintroduction of passport requirements – after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – left many in France unable to travel to the Island, as only about 50% of French nationals have passports. Previously they could enter Jersey using an ID card.

Deputy Ozouf raised the issue of identity cards before a House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee earlier this year, when he said that visitors from the country had dropped off a ‘cliff edge’. Speaking to the JEP yesterday, he said that the subject ‘was discussed at length’ during his meeting with Ms Boone and Mr Berville, adding that he was ‘very encouraged by the direction of travel that this is going in’. ‘I realise the importance of this, to both the Jersey tourist economy but also to the Normandy economies. ‘Our tourist economy and visitor economy has suffered immensely . Our restaurants, our hotels, our retailers, our high street, our ferries, our visitor attractions – all of these things have suffered immensely because of the dramatic decline in French visitors. That is why I have been putting such huge emphasis on trying to find a solution,’ he added. Asked how soon the use of ID cards could be reinstated, he said that ‘significant progress’ had been made.

‘If this decision can be finalised and put over the line, it will have a very significant impact on next year’s tourist season,’ he said. ‘There is still some dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s to be done.’ He said that the issue was important to the French in terms of aiding ‘sustainability of their sea routes’, of which he said the most important was that operated by Manche Iles Express. ‘It’s incredibly important that Manche Iles Express survives and survives well – the Normandy regional individuals have made it very clear that Manche Iles Express is unsustainable without a solution [to this problem].’ Deputy Ozouf said the opportunity to discuss mutual areas of interest with the French secretaries of state face to face was ‘invaluable’. ‘We made progress on several matters that may not have been possible otherwise. I would also like to thank the British Embassy in Paris for their continued support.’

Boat and skipper gather praise for tracking down bluefin tuna

The father of a vessel owner who was involved with the tagging and release of bluefin tuna has attributed the success of the project to his son’s skill as a skipper. Bluefin tuna have travelled to the Island from as far as their Mediterranean spawning grounds, according to new data from a pioneering tagging project. The project aims to better understand their movement and behaviour and began last year. A further seven fish were recently tagged by Marine Resources staff using state-of-the-art satellite devices which will be on the fish for up to two years before detaching.

The boat used for the capture, tag and release of the tuna was the Anna III, a ten-metre catamaran which is a purpose-built charter angling vessel, owned by Oliver Heart. Tony Heart, of Fishing Jersey, said: ‘I must say it is Oliver’s experience and skill as a skipper that made this project a success. ‘The [Jersey] fisheries along with the scientists from Exeter University commissioned us and the boat to carry out scientific experiments on bluefin tuna. ‘Both Tom and Lucy, the scientists, said she was one of the best, if not the best, boats they had been on in British waters.  Mr Heart said his son would have spent at least £6,000 on rods and reel equipment for the project. ‘Before we could undertake this project the boat, equipment and crew all had to be inspected and deemed adequate for the job. Oliver, at his own expense, had to fit extra-strong rod sockets, outriggers and supply all the strong rods, reels and special line. Each rod and reel being worth at least £1,000, of which he purchased at least six,’ added Mr Heart. Alex Plaster, marine science and research officer, said: ‘Two of the tags we deployed last year popped off within reach for us to go and collect them – one was 70 miles west of Jersey and the other just west of Les Minquiers.

‘These fish are travelling incredible distances and with this satellite data we can calculate the migration route of the animal. The Norman Le Brocq [Fisheries vessel] collected one of these using tracking equipment and we also had two volunteers from the Jersey fishing fleet who collected the other tag.’ Bluefin tuna are a protected species under Jersey’s Wildlife Law. Mr Heart added: ‘I have been a charter skipper for 33 years in Jersey and never thought I would see these fish in my lifetime.’

King Charles III offers his condolences to Jersey following ‘heartbreaking’ maritime collision and Pier Road explosion

King Charles III has offered his condolences to the Island following two tragedies which have rocked the community. In a letter to the Lieutenant Governor Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, the King said that the people of Jersey have been in his thoughts following the maritime collision that led to three fishermen losing their lives at sea and the Pier Road explosion which has killed nine Islanders.

The letter read: ‘My wife and I have been so dreadfully shocked and saddened by the terrible tragedies in St Helier and at sea off St Ouen’s Bay. ‘At this time of great sorrow and grief, my deepest possible sympathy and condolences go to the families and friends who lost their loved ones, and to all Islanders who have been affected by these heart-breaking events. ‘Your immeasurable sense of loss and anguish is very keenly felt and, in the days ahead, the people of the Bailiwick of Jersey will remain in my thoughts and prayers.’

Last Thursday, father of two Michael Michieli and his two Filipino crew – Larry Simyunn and Jervis Baligat – died after the L’Ecume II collided with Condor’s Commodore Goodwill. Just two later, in the early hours of Saturday, a suspected gas explosion on Pier Road led to the collapse of Andium Homes’ Haut du Mont apartment block. Nine Islanders 

Permanent memorial for those who lost their lives in Jersey’s recent tragedies ‘should be considered’

A permanent memorial to Islanders who lost their lives in recent tragedies should be considered, the Constable of St Helier has said. Simon Crowcroft said he had been contacted by a parishioner asking about the future of the site at Haut du Mont in Pier Road, where nine Islanders died following an explosion in a residential block last Saturday. ‘The discussion I had was about whether it would be right to rebuild on the site for housing, or whether creating some form of memorial would be more appropriate,’ he said.‘It is definitely something that I think should be considered further, and it would seem to make sense to do something in that area, if not at that exact location.’

Mr Crowcroft said that he felt it would also be right to consider whether the same memorial should honour both the Haut du Mont victims and the three fishermen lost at sea earlier this month when their trawler collided with a cargo ship in St Ouen’s Bay.‘I’m sure members of the public will come forward with ideas and I would hope the government would talk to the parish if the memorial is going to be in St Helier,’ he said. ‘Crucially I would expect that the views of the families of those who lost their lives, and residents of Haut du Mont, would be taken into account – they are the people who will continue to be most impacted by this.’

Community spirit in dark times has shown Jersey ‘at its best’

The strength of the Island’s community spirit in the face of dark times has shown Jersey ‘at its best’, the Bailiff has said. The traditional States Christmas speeches, often a light-hearted look back at the previous 12 months, took a more sombre tone yesterday as the Island continues to come to terms with two devastating tragedies over the past nine days, which killed 12 Islanders. Each year, the longest-serving Constable and Deputy as well as the Bailiff address the Assembly on the final sitting. St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft said it would be remiss to think about family Christmases without ‘reflecting on how sombre and grief-stricken’ the festive period will be for many Islanders. ‘The whole community has, of course, rallied round,’ he added. ‘That is what Islanders do so well. Whether in response to the recent sad events or to other national and international shocks that strike a chord with Islanders such as the invasion of Ukraine.’ He went on to praise the work of the emergency services and the honorary policy forces that had dealt with the two incidents.

Deputy Geoff Southern echoed Mr Crowcroft’s comments, adding: ‘We have seen once again the amazing response of Jersey people who came forward with offers of help .‘We have seen the response of the emergency services who serve us so well. ‘We are a wonderful, generous Island as the response to recent crises have shown.’ Deputy Southern also reflected on the change within the Assembly following the election in the summer which brought with it ‘perhaps the biggest change this Chamber has seen’.

The Bailiff, Sir Timothy Le Cocq, reflected on how Covid restrictions had prevented so much at the time of his last Christmas address to the House and how much had changed in the past 12 months. ‘The difficulty with being the third speaker is that pretty well everything that one might have wanted to say has already been said,’ the Bailiff said. However, I would not wish this opportunity to pass without reflecting on this extraordinary year we are shortly to leave behind. ‘Looking back to the last year we could not have expected the year that 2022 was going to be.’ He added that Islanders had been able to celebrate Liberation Day properly for the first time in two years, and came together again for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. ‘While these were happy and positive events for Jersey and its people, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a sobering backdrop to them.

‘We also had the enormous shock of the loss of Her Majesty The Queen. ’He added that the events in Jersey in the past nine days had been ‘sorrowful’ but that the Island could be ‘extremely proud’ of the response. ‘It is in this sad context we have seen Jersey at its very best,’ he added. ‘At this time, we may reflect on what has happened over the past 12 months, for good or for bad, for the friends that we have lost. ‘We can reflect with optimism and hope for what is to come.’

Market Update

European stock markets were lackluster on the final day of trading before Christmas as trains, flights and postal deliveries are all set to be disrupted by strikes in the UK, whilst shrugging off a downbeat session in the US overnight.

In London, the FTSE 100 was almost 0.2% up after opening, while the CAC tumbled 0.1% and the DAX was flat.

The pan-regional Stoxx 600 (a leading provider of market indexes that are representative of European and global markets) was up 0.07% at 0841 GMT with most major bourses higher. The London Stock Exchange closes at 1230 GMT, while other markets will remain open.

It’s been a rough year for the Stoxx, with Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine hitting all asset classes. Rampant inflation and the disastrous 45-day reign of former UK prime minister Lizz Truss and her Treasury sidekick Kwasi Kwarteng didn’t help as their car crash of a “mini budget” with unfunded tax cuts hammered bond markets.

The benchmark European index is down 12.34% in the year to date. A raft of interest rate rises and poor business sentiment data last week saw it fall 3.2%. Investors are looking for crumbs of comfort wherever they can find them.

Across the pond on Wall Street, S&P 500 futures were flat, Dow futures rose almost 0.1%, and Nasdaq futures were 0.1% lower as trade began in Europe.

It came as shares closed in a sea of red on Thursday, driven by fears that strong economic data and better-than-expected economic growth will see the US Federal Reserve double down on its interest rate hikes to tame inflation.