Client Weekly Update – Friday 10 December

Local update

No additional pandemic-related measures will be introduced in Jersey the Chief Minister has announced, following a government meeting about the Island’s Covid-19 position this week.

Senator John Le Fondré made the statement after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would be moving England into ‘Plan B’ measures following concerns about the new ‘Omicron’ variant of the virus. 

Those living in the country were asked to work from home if they are able to, masks are now legally mandated in most public places and anyone attending nightclubs and certain hospitality venues will have to show a pass demonstrating they are fully vaccinated or have recently had a negative lateral flow test result. 

Covid certification has already become mandatory for entry to nightclubs and other large-scale venues in Scotland and Wales.

Meanwhile, in France, nightclubs have been ordered to close for a month from this weekend and citizens asked to work from home where they can.

Whilst there is no change in Jersey Islanders making festive plans to go to France now face the prospect of a potentially costly pre-departure Covid test-regardless of their vaccination status-following a recent change in policy following prompted by the spread of Omicron. 

Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnum said ‘it’s probably inevitable that Omicron will reach Jersey, we just need to make sure we are prepared. 

PCR testing for all arriving passengers will not be re-introduced he added, saying that Jersey’s border policy continued to provide a good level of protection by requiring PCR tests for those not fully vaccinated as well as anyone arriving from outside the Common Travel Area of the Uk, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies.

Senator Le Fondré said: ‘At present, there are no detected cases of the Omicron variant in the Island, our hospital capacity and resilience remain high, and there has been a steady decrease in the total number of active cases over the past days. As a result, ministers have taken the decision not to implement any additional restrictive measures at this stage.’

‘We must continue to act based on our own Covid position and clinical evidence, and not act prematurely based on changes in other jurisdictions. Ministers will continue to monitor the situation closely over the coming days and will take appropriate action if we anticipate a significant rise in cases of hospitalisation.’

Senator Le Fondré urged Islanders to take personal responsibility for preventing the spread of Covid by wearing masks in shops, signing up to the lateral flow test programme and getting vaccinated, saying:  ‘Approximately 50,000 registrations have been received to date across the home, school and workplace LFT programmes’. 

Le Fondré added: ‘If you are a young person who is eligible for a second dose of the vaccine or an adult who is eligible for a booster dose, I urge you to book your appointment as soon as it is available to you. Equally, if you have not yet received a first dose of the vaccine, please do book an appointment; it’s not too late to start protecting yourself and others.’

Islanders aged 30 to 39 can now book their COVID-19 booster dose from today. Last week’s operational changes have made a significant number of additional booster appointments available, so the Vaccination Centre will be able to welcome more Islanders for their booster (third) dose from today. 

The booster dose interval for all Islanders aged 30 and over is now three months, which follows the latest advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in response to the Omicron variant.

This means any Islander aged 30 and over who received their second dose three or more months ago can book a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

Last week, Jersey’s Vaccination Programme began its rollout of the new expanded vaccination programme, as advised by the JCVI, in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

As of today, there are 1,252 known cases of Covid with 12 Islanders in hospital.

Mixed markets

The FTSE 100 was down 0.2% at 7,307.48 this morning, with the FTSE 250 down 0.3% at 23,069.73.

European markets are lower today with shares in France off the most. The CAC 40 is down 0.51% while Germany’s DAX is off 0.40%.

U.S. stock futures and bond yields rose ahead of fresh inflation data that could influence the Federal Reserve’s timeline for reducing stimulus measures.

Futures for the S&P 500 gained 0.3% today. Contracts for the tech-focused Nasdaq 100 rose 0.3% as well, and futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.1%.

Asian markets finished broadly lower today with shares in Hong Kong leading the region. The Hang Seng is down 1.07% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 is off 1.00% and China’s Shanghai Composite is lower by 0.18%.

Pre-Christmas interest rate hike

New numbers suggest that growth slowed even before the advent of the Omicron type, prompting Chancellor Rishi Sunak to warn of “bumps on our road to recovery.”

The Office for National Statistics reported that GDP increased by just 0.1% in October, significantly below the 0.4% projected by economists and a significant deceleration from September’s 0.6% gain.

The statistics suggested that the summer dining-out boom was fading and that the troubled construction industry was experiencing supply chain bottlenecks.

Experts are concerned that new COVID limits under “Plan B” could stifle the recovery even further, with ONS estimates indicating that GDP in October was still 0.5% below pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.

Scrutiny over plan to cut tax threshold in Jersey

A Scrutiny panel has found that plans to decrease the level at which GST is payable on imported products have failed to consider the consequences of the change.

The Treasury has not presented statistics explaining its intention to decrease the ‘de minimis’ level from £120 to £60 from January 2023, on which items are charged the 5% GST rate, according to an assessment by the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel.

Senator Steve Pallett headed the study, which found that the government had not fully addressed the impact on low-income households that rely on online shopping to source household goods.

Although the modification will not take effect until the beginning of 2023, it is included in the 2022-25 Government Plan, which will be considered by States Members next week during the year’s last session.

The panel has asked Treasury Minister, Susie Pinel, to submit evidence to States Members concerning the transition to a £60 limit, and perhaps £0, ahead of next week’s discussion so that decision-making may be informed.

Plan B threatens to cancel Christmas

GMB, the trade union, has endorsed the restoration of a furlough plan, while UK Hospitality has stated that business rates relief, as well as additional rent and VAT reduction actions, are required.

New Plan B COVID measures, which include working from home and vaccination passports for specific venues, have prompted increased requests for the government to intervene and assist companies affected.

GMB, the trade union, said it supports the restoration of a furlough system if the new restrictions put employment at risk.

Anything less than complete business rates relief, grants, rent protection, and prolonged VAT reduction, according to industry organisation UK Hospitality, would be “catastrophic.”

Meanwhile, equities in the travel and leisure sector have been hit by the government’s statement and the pound has lingered near one-year lows.

Answer to HGV driver crisis

Although there has been some progress in recruiting new drivers to keep the economy moving, it’s hoped that the free boot camps run by the state will help the UK to make a significant dent in the shortage next year.

As the UK continues to grapple with a severe lack of delivery specialists, the first intensive short courses aimed at helping more people become HGV drivers have begun.

The program is part of the government’s Skills Bootcamps initiative, which aims to boost employment in important industries.

The scarcity of lorry drivers able to keep goods moving from point A to point B has been a key feature of the UK’s supply chain crisis this year, contributing to bare supermarket shelves, delays in products departing ports, and even the panic buying-inspired fuel shortage in the autumn.

The haulage industry was estimated to have been 100,000 personnel short, during its peak season in the summer.