Client Weekly Update – Friday 8 April

Covid update

Islanders planning Easter holiday trips are being urged to continue testing for Covid – amid a significant drop in the number of known active cases. Deputy medical officer of health Dr Ivan Muscat said that the decrease in cases at the Hospital was indicative of an Island-wide drop –  He said precautions against the virus should not be abandoned and added that, with schools set to break up for the Easter holidays today, it was important to keep testing.

‘As the Easter holidays are around the corner, many Islanders will be wanting to go abroad and will be concerned that if they receive a positive test, they may not be able to enjoy a holiday. I would like to encourage Islanders to continue using lateral-flow tests to keep themselves, their loved ones, and others safe,’ he said.

While case numbers in Jersey have fallen, the UK has seen a spike, with data published at the start of this month showing that one in 12 people in Scotland had Covid, as well as one in 13 in England and one in 14 in Wales.

Dr Muscat said: ‘Despite the improving situation, Covid-19 still remains a threat which, although it does not now require an emergency response, still requires sensible precautions, ‘It is still vital that Islanders keep up to date with their vaccination schedule, regularly use lateral-flow tests and continue to follow public-health guidance.’

The number of known active cases in Jersey was consistently above 2,000 during the period from 7 to 30 March but has since declined, with the latest figure of 1,282 published yesterday. After having peaked at 49 on 7 March, the current number in hospital is ten.

Dr Muscat said the testing regime on admission to hospital was unchanged, indicating that the perceived reduction in cases was real. The continued rollout of the vaccine programme, increasing immunity, adherence to public-health precautions and the warmer weather had all contributed to this, he added.

Isolation remains mandatory in Jersey for those who have tested positive, with ministers having delayed the relaxation of the legal requirement, originally scheduled for the end of March, until – as things stand – the end of April. Other jurisdictions such as the UK and Guernsey have removed the requirement for people who test positive to isolate, which has led to case numbers spiking.

Parents and carers of children aged 5 to 11 will be able to book their child’s COVID-19 vaccine from yesterday, with appointments available at Fort Regent’s Vaccination Centre from Saturday 9 April. This follows the latest advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). From today, parents and carers will begin receiving letters, leaflets, and consent forms through parent mail.

As with other vaccinations for children, parental consent is required, and a signed consent form will need to be handed in at the appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine. 5 to 11-year-olds are being offered two doses of a paediatric version of the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine, at least 12 weeks apart. This vaccine was first offered to vulnerable 5 to 11-year-olds in February this year, again following JCVI advice.

The Vaccination Centre at Fort Regent will have a separate entrance for 5 to 11-year- olds and the Queen’s Hall will be separated into two sections – with one area for 5 to 11-year-olds and one area for those aged 12 and above.

Dr Muscat said: “I’d like to reassure parents that the paediatric version of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is safe for their child aged 5 to 11. Following rigorous reviews of the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine, various authorities such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Federal and Drug Administration (FDA), and Health Canada have confirmed it is safe and effective.”

Although children are generally at a lower risk of serious illness from the virus, a small number of children who do get infected go on to develop severe illness.

“The latest evidence suggests that offering the vaccine ahead of another potential wave will protect that small number of children from serious illness while also protecting many children from the impacts of milder infection. Vaccinating your child now against COVID-19 will provide protection for any future waves of infection, the more severe a future wave, the greater the likely benefits from vaccination.”

Head of the Vaccination Programme, Emma Baker, said: “The Vaccination Centre is being adapted to accommodate vaccinating this young generation of Islanders. We have made the Centre as friendly as possible by creating a separate entrance and area for children to get vaccinated.

The Government has published the States of Jersey Annual Report and Accounts for 2021. The report covers the Government’s achievements over the last year, its continued response to Covid-19, and its financial performance.

The Performance Report provides a breakdown of the activities and initiatives carried out by Government departments, covering both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 related work.

It explains what the government has done with taxpayers’ money. Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, said: “While we were still living with and responding to Covid-19 during 2021, I’m proud that we were able to deliver on many of our strategic priorities during the year.

Ukraine update

On Thursday western nations escalated their pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with the European Union approving a ban on Russian coal and the United States moving to strip Russia’s trading privileges and prohibit its energy sales in the American market.

The new punishments came as the United Nations General Assembly took a symbolically important vote to penalize Russia by suspending it from the Human Rights Council, the 47-member U.N. body that can investigate rights abuses. Western diplomats called the suspension a barometer of global outrage over the war and the growing evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces.

That evidence includes newly revealed radio transmissions intercepted by German intelligence in which Russian forces discussed carrying out indiscriminate killings north of Kyiv, the capital, according to two officials briefed on an intelligence report. Russia has denied any responsibility for atrocities.

Together, the steps announced on Thursday represented a significant increase in efforts led by Western nations to isolate and inflict greater economic pain on Russia as its troops regroup for a wave of attacks in eastern Ukraine, prompting urgent calls by Ukrainian officials for civilians there to flee.

“These next few days may be your last chance to leave!” the regional governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, declared in a video on Facebook. “The enemy is trying to cut off all possible ways to leave. Do not delay — evacuate.”

But the Western penalties were unlikely to persuade Russia to stop the war, and they revealed how the allies were trying to minimize their own economic pain and prevent themselves from becoming entangled in a direct armed conflict with Moscow.

It took two days of protracted talks in Brussels for the European Union to approve a fifth round of sanctions against Russia that included its first ban on a Russian energy source, coal. But the measures were softened by several caveats, highlighting Europe’s diminishing appetite to absorb further economic fallout from the war.

The ban would be phased in over four months, instead of three as originally proposed, according to E.U. diplomats. Germany had been pushing for a longer transition period to wind down existing contracts, even though Russian coal is easier to replace with purchases from other suppliers, compared with oil and gas.

European diplomats also agreed to ban Russian-flagged vessels from E.U. ports, block trucks from Russia and its ally, Belarus, from E.U. roads, and stop the import of Russian seafood, cement, wood and liquor and the export to Russia of quantum computers and advanced semiconductors.

Ukrainian officials had urged Western nations to go further and completely cut off purchases of Russian oil and gas, contending that existing sanctions would not cripple Russia’s economy quickly or severely enough to affect President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to subjugate Ukraine by force.

“As long as the West continues buying Russian gas and oil, it is supporting Ukraine with one hand while supporting the Russian war machine with the other hand,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he urged members of the alliance to accelerate promised help to Ukraine’s outgunned military.

Mixed markets

The FTSE is up 1% at 7,626.77, while despite Ferrexpo's gains the FTSE 250 is up 0.4% at 21,121.

European markets are broadly higher today with shares in France leading the region. The CAC 40 is up 1.24% while Germany’s DAX is up 1.24%

US Stocks, which fell earlier this week, rallied on Thursday afternoon after starting the day down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 87.06 points, or 0.25%, to close at 34583.57, the S&P 500 rose 19.06 points, or 0.4%, to 4500.21, and the NASDAQ Composite edged up 8,48 points, or 0.1% to 13897.30.

Asian markets finished higher today with shares in China leading the region. The Shanghai Composite is up 0.47% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 is up 0.36% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is up 0.17%.

All flights cancelled from UK

Passengers trying to get away for the Easter holidays were met with hours-long security lines, delays, and last-minute flight cancellations at airports around the UK.

Hundreds of services have been cancelled by EasyJet and British Airways in recent days, owing to staff shortages caused by illness and the need to scale up recruitment amid a renewed rise in travel demand.

On Thursday, British Airways cancelled 74 flights, 20 more than Wednesday.

Co-op warns about food supplies

After announcing that profits more than halved last year due to supply chain disruption and rising staff pay, the Co-op Group has warned of continued challenges with food shortages and inflation.

The mutual said its underlying profit for 2021, excluding a one-time £99 million gain related to the sale of the Co-operative Bank in 2017, was down 57% to £100 million from the previous year, while sales fell to £11.2 billion from £11.5 billion.

Despite spending £140 million on building 50 new stores and refitting 87 more, sales at the group’s food division declined 2% to £9.1 billion, despite spending £18 million on price cuts. While in-store sales fell, online sales increased from £70 million to £200 million, thanks in part to partnerships with Deliveroo and Amazon.

Sales also slipped at the Co-op’s funerals business, declining by £8m to £264m.