Falling case numbers, less severe disease and growing levels of immunity are helping Jersey ‘edge towards’ the end of the pandemic, the deputy medical officer of health, Dr Ivan Muscat, believes that the Island is heading in the right direction and that the ‘balance of risks’ approach would soon enable changes to be made to current restrictions.
He spoke as the number of known active cases fell from 3,020 on Friday to 2,402 on Monday and again to 2,273 today and symptoms have been extremely mild in the vast majority of cases.
Covid-19 was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020, but could now be closer to becoming endemic, Dr Muscat said. This would mean the virus was present but was essentially stable and spreading at a relatively slow rate.
He went on to add: “Everyone would like Covid to become simply endemic, and we are edging towards endemicity, although what can upset that would be a new variant. Variants can change the nature of the virus, but at the moment we are certainly going in the right direction”.
“Rising immunity levels were another significant factor” he said, and ‘Western society as a whole is starting to get closer to significant immunity across the population, although there has never been any attempt to let the infection run unfettered across the community”.
“People have been protected through the success of the mass vaccination programme and there has been some coincident infection as well – between those two factors there has been a gradual build-up of immunity across much of the population.
Members of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell, including Dr Muscat, met on Monday to discuss whether current restrictions could be eased.
Dr Muscat said that while the next stage remained ‘policy under review’, meaning he was unable to provide definitive news although yesterday Competent Authority Ministers agreed to update the isolation policy for positive cases which will allow Islanders to start lateral flow testing earlier in their isolation.
Fully vaccinated Islanders can start lateral flow testing from day 5 instead of day 6 of isolation.
Non-fully vaccinated Islanders can also now start lateral flow testing from day 7 of isolation. Whilst Islanders can now start lateral flow testing from day 5 of isolation.
The decision follows advice from Public Health in consultation with the Scientific Technical Analytical Cell (STAC) and comes into effect immediately. The Contact Tracing Service will update those currently isolating after a positive test with the changes.
Both fully vaccinated and non-fully vaccinated Islanders will be able to leave isolation early if they are:
- have two negative LFT results in a row, at least 24 hours apart, from either day 5 onwards or day 7 onwards depending on vaccination status
- the two negative test results have been submitted on the testing portal at gov.je.
Ministers are considering the easing of further COVID-19 measures, on the advice of Public Health in consultation with STAC, and will be making a further announcement soon.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, said: “The isolation policy requires a balance of harms approach, balancing the impact to society and the individual against the benefits of reduced transmission”.
“As anticipated, the recent widespread community transmission because of the Omicron variant resulted in a large number of Islanders isolating. This immediate update to the isolation policy will mean that Islanders who meet the criteria are able to leave their isolation early, however, they are recommended to be cautious over the following days after leaving isolation”.
Deputy Medical Officer for Health, Dr Ivan Muscat, said: “Allowing Islanders to test themselves earlier in their isolation benefits both the health and wellbeing of individuals and the community as a whole”.
“Current evidence shows that viral infection reduces quicker in those who are fully vaccinated, and the risk of spreading the virus to others is highest at the start of infection or just after the onset of infection. Therefore, it is appropriate that fully vaccinated Islanders are able to start testing themselves from day 5 whereas those who are not fully vaccinated may start testing themselves from day 7”.
In other news visitor numbers to Jersey could exceed pre-Covid levels it has been reported.
Jersey’s tourism industry is poised to bounce back from the pandemic and Industry bosses say the island has attracted new holidaymakers over the past two years and is seen by many UK travellers as a safer and more reliable destination than Europe.
And finally, the new incoming States of Jersey Chief executive took one step closer to starting her new role yesterday after completing her last day heading up Belfast City Council. Suzanne Wylie is due to arrive on the island this month ready to take up her new position on 1 February.
She will be the first woman to hold the post. Wylie replaces Paul Martin who was employed on an interim basis following the resignation of Charlie Parker at the end of 2020.
The FTSE 100 index has dropped by 85 points to around 7500 points, the lowest in over a week.
European markets are broadly lower today with shares in Germany off the most. The DAX is down 1.74% while France’s CAC 40 is off 1.51%.
US stock futures fell on Friday following a disappointing earnings report from Netflix. Dow futures shed 0.2%, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 0.5% and 0.9%, respectively.
Asian markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Hang Seng gained 0.05%, while the Shanghai Composite led the Nikkei 225 lower. They fell 0.91% and 0.90% respectively.
£8.5bn programme of ‘helicopter money’
According to a leading thinktank with Labour and Tory MPs on its advisory board, the government should implement a “helicopter money” initiative to assist people burdened by rising energy bills.
According to the Social Market Foundation, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, should help millions of low- and middle-income households overcome the cost-of-living crisis with a simple programme of one-time cash transfers worth £8.5 billion. The suggestion comes just two weeks before the energy regulator, Ofgem, declares a £500 increase in the annual price cap on energy bills beginning in April.
SMF’s head economist, Dr Aveek Bhattacharya, stated that a £300 cheque should be paid to homes who do not have a higher rate taxpayer, with an additional £200 for those on universal credit or legacy benefits, assisting those who rely on the basic state pension or disability benefits.
Hospitality starts recovering
Hard-pressed pubs and restaurants are reporting early signs of a sales revival, raising hopes that the sector’s pent-up demand from a bleak Christmas is about to be let loose.
According to hospitality executives, takings have recently risen sped up and the relaxing of Plan B Covid restrictions – including the stopping of work-from-home instructions – might boost the recovery even more.
As research found that the UK lost almost 8,000 licensed premises by 2021 – the equivalent of 13 each day – pub owners warned that the industry was not out of the woods yet and urged the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to extend support to the sector.
Primark to cut 400 managers
Despite a substantial rebound in trade in recent months, Primark is laying off 400 workers in its UK stores as the fast-fashion retailer responds to mounting cost constraints.
As part of the reorganization, the company, which has 191 stores in the UK and over 400 worldwide, said it was phasing out some store roles, including supervisors, and introducing a new entry-level management post. Overall, the company anticipates that the revisions will result in 400 fewer retail managers in the UK.
Mortgages getting cheaper
According to the Financial Conduct Authority, strong competition between banks is driving down mortgage rates.
Despite the financial burden of the pandemic, the financial regulator discovered evidence that increased competition is increasing choice and cutting prices for consumers and small companies.
The regulator said in an update to its 2018 strategic review of retail banking that evidence suggests that fierce competition, motivated in part by the increased use of brokers, has benefited mortgage borrowers through lower interest rates. However, this makes it more difficult for smaller lenders to compete.
According to the analysis, interest rates fell by about 0.9% between 2015 and 2020, or about 30% on average throughout the residential mortgage book as a whole.