Client Weekly Update – Friday 1 April

Covid update

More than 90,000 Covid cases could have been seen in Jersey since the Pandemic began and another surge is possible when final restrictions are removed next month, the deputy officer for health has said.

In an interview to mark two years since the start of the first lockdown, Dr Ivan Muscat warned that another rise is highly possible when measures including the legal requirement for positive cases to isolate will be removed at the end of April.

The scrapping of such measures was pushed back by a month amid a steady rise in cases in Jersey and an explosion of cases in the UK and Guernsey after those jurisdictions dropped all Covid Restrictions.

Commenting on the pandemic so far and possible developments in the coming months and years, Dr Muscat said that just over 46,000 Covid Cases had been recorded in Jersey but the true total could be double that figure around 92,000.

The Covid jab could be combined with the flu vaccine later this year and could eventually be delivered in a tablet or patch placed on the skin. About 75% of Hospital patients with Covid this year tested positive while being treated for other conditions, A small number of Islanders could have natural immunity to Covid.

This week two years ago islanders were placed under unprecedented restrictions as Jersey went into its first Lockdown. Dr Muscat said that following the success of the vaccination programme and the arrival of the ti-viral drugs Jersey was almost ready to lift all remaining restrictions.

‘We are trying to walk back to normality and at some stage, we have to lift mandatory isolation but isolation will of course still be recommended on a voluntary basis for those who become Covid Positive. But as with other countries, when you lift mandatory Isolation some degree of increased activity is likely but, if the significance of that rise is minimal then it is not a worry.’

As of today, there are 1,963 known Covid cases with 5 islanders in hospital. 57% of the island’s population have now had all 3 vaccinations. A total of 226,090 jabs have been administered and 1,016,538 tests have been taken.

Ukraine update

A U.S. official has provided declassified intelligence claiming that there is “persistent tension” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Ministry of Defence, (MOD) allegedly because Putin’s senior advisers are “too afraid to tell him the truth” about Russia’s battlefield failures.

“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because his senior advisors are too afraid to tell him the truth.”

The official did not provide evidence for the claims, citing a need to protect sources and methods but said “Putin was unaware that the Russian military had used and lost conscripted soldiers in Ukraine, saying the lack of information showed “a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian president.”

“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military. There is now persistent tension between Putin and the MOD, stemming from Putin’s mistrust in MOD leadership,” the official added.

The Biden administration shared the declassified information after weeks of accusations from U.S. officials that Putin had been isolated, although no evidence had been provided.

Putin had a tense exchange on camera last month in which he told his chief of foreign intelligence service to “speak plainly!” and emphasized this month in televised remarks that Russia would not use conscripted soldiers in Ukraine.”I emphasize that conscript soldiers are not participating in hostilities and will not participate in them. And there will be no additional call-up of reservists,” Putin said.

More than 1,400 missiles have been fired against Ukraine since Russia attacked last month, and the number of Russian airstrikes has increased despite talk of de-escalation, a U.S. defence official said Thursday. “Despite the rhetoric of de-escalations, we’re still observing artillery fire and airstrikes in and around Kyiv,” the senior Defence Department official said at a briefing.

Some Russian forces have been seen moving from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, but there has not been a “wholesale movement, at least not at this point,” the U.S. official said. The official estimated that the number 20% of the Russian forces arrayed just against Kyiv. Russia’s deputy defence minister said this week that a decision was made to reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas.

U.S. officials have expressed scepticism about the claim. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby has said those troops have not been sent home and that the assessment is they will be resupplied and used elsewhere in Ukraine.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators at peace talks in Istanbul discussed security guarantees for Kyiv that would be legally secured by third-party countries, Ukrainian negotiator and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Wednesday.

“It seems important to me that if we sign an agreement on security guarantees, Ukraine will have not only its own powerful army but also an additional security circuit at the expense of allied countries that will stand side by side with us,” he said in comments to reporters.

He did not specify which countries would give the guarantee. Russian forces would need to withdraw to their positions before the invasion, and only then would Ukraine put it up in a referendum, he said.  Russia is no longer giving Ukraine ultimatums in the talks, he said, pointing to its stalled military campaign.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov however, suggested Wednesday that there were no significant advances at the talks. “We cannot yet state anything promising and any breakthroughs,” he said during his daily media briefing. “There is still a very extensive work to be done.

Snow forecast in Jersey

Winter finally arrived in Jersey yesterday, after a recent sustained sunny spell, as hail, sleet and snow showers fell across the Island. Several roads were left with a light covering following a heavy hail shower during the afternoon.

And further wintry showers are forecast to continue today. Jersey Met has issued a yellow-level snow warning – the lowest level of alert – which states: ‘Showers of sleet or snow are expected this afternoon and tonight, perhaps bringing temporary slight accumulations, as well as a risk of icy patches.’

Mixed markets

The FTSE is holding onto its modest gains at 7542, up 27 points, while European markets are broadly higher today with shares in France leading the region. The CAC 40 is up 1.97% and Germany’s DAX is up 0.23%.

Thursday night, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.56% at 34,678.35, as the S&P 500 lost 1.57% to 4,530.41 and the Nasdaq Composite was 1.54% lower at 14,220.52.

Asian markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.91% and the Hang Seng rose 0.19%. The Nikkei 225 lost 0.56%.

Bill shock for millions as rises hit

A typical household using a normal amount of gas and electricity will now spend £1,971 per year as a result of the 54% increase in the energy price cap.

One expert told the BBC that a further increase, bringing the annual bill to £2,600, could be expected in October.

Some people can also expect council tax, water bills, and car tax will increase on April 1.

Minimum wage rates are rising, which, combined with some government financial assistance, is helping to ease the blow.

An energy bill increase of £693 per year will affect 18 million families, with 4.5 million consumers on prepayment meters facing a £708 per year increase.

Island companies on high-risk list

A SPECIAL financial taskforce has placed a number of Jersey companies on a ‘high-risk list’ after it was discovered that they were offering services to sanctioned Kremlin-linked billionaires and enterprises.

The newly-formed Island-based group made urgent queries about 613 people, firms, and trusts in a fast-paced inquiry initiated as the UK government targeted individuals and companies with a range of sanctions and asset freezes.

Despite the fact that the majority of businesses were found to be clean, the taskforce – which includes members of the Jersey Financial Services Commission, the States police, and the government – has now compiled a list of companies that are considered to be at high risk of facilitating money laundering or financing terrorism after ‘sanctioned names’ were discovered in their customer base.

Those on the list will be closely monitored and may face operating bans or criminal prosecution.

Britain’s finance ministry flags reforms, defends regulators

The Financial Conduct Authority of the United Kingdom announced on Wednesday that it had extended temporary licenses to just a “limited number” of cryptocurrency companies ahead of an April 1 deadline to demonstrate adequate anti-money laundering measures.

Cryptocurrency companies must obtain a license demonstrating that they have enough checks and controls in place to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

“We have concluded our assessments, and the temporary registration regime will close on 1 April, for all but for a small number of firms where it is strictly necessary to continue to have temporary registration,” the Financial Conduct Authority said on its website.

The fact that the firms were placed on the watchdog’s list with temporary registrations does not mean they had been assessed as fit and suitable, according to the watchdog.

On Wednesday, relatively major firms like Copper Technologies and Revolut were still functioning under a temporary license.

According to David Raw, an FCA policy official, 90% of crypto businesses seeking clearance for their anti-money laundering measures have either withdrawn or been denied because they could not meet the rules.

“It won’t be the case that you suddenly have to cease trading,” Raw had said regarding firms whose licence applications could not be fully processed by the April 1 deadline.