Weekly Client Update – Friday 12 November

Local update

The Government has hit back at damning claims by Island GPs that it seriously mismanaged the pandemic and had a ‘fatalistic’ approach to tackling Covid.

In a strongly worded statement, Health Minister Richard Renouf said decisions had been made in response to the ‘unprecedented challenge’ of the outbreak and had always been based on the ‘best available scientific advice’.

Deputy Renouf issued the rebuttal after the Primary Care Body made a series of allegations about the government’s handling of the crisis, including that it increased the number of deaths by sending patients back to care homes without testing them for Covid. 

The group, which represents GPs, also said that the first lockdown had been lifted too quickly and that there had been a lack of PPE for carers.

The body accused ministers of failing to introduce border controls early enough and of lifting them too quickly, and added that communication from the Island’s senior politicians ‘was, and remains, sadly lacking’.

The body’s criticism follows calls made last month by Brigadier Nigel Hall, who has experience in crisis management, for a ‘rapid lessons learned’ public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Ministers are calling on Islanders to begin taking additional precautions this winter, as part of Step 1 of Jersey’s COVID-19 Winter Strategy. 

The recommendations follow advice from Public Health and consultation with the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC). 

Islanders are being asked not to be complacent, despite the high levels of uptake in vaccination among older Islanders, and reminding Islanders that COVID-19 continues to pose a risk as the number of cases continues to rise.

The following measures are being strongly recommended to Islanders,

  • to get themselves and their family members vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu as soon as possible – as it is not too late to get the first doses and begin to receive protection
  • to know their COVID-19 status, by increasing the frequency of lateral flow testing (LFT), before meeting other people, attending parties and large events, or going into educational or health settings
  • to wear face coverings in indoor public settings whenever it is practical – this includes in shops, when not eating or drinking in restaurants or bars, and anywhere indoors where distancing cannot be guaranteed or where there is poor ventilation

Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, said: “We will have all noticed, with the clocks going back and the weather getting colder, that we are heading into the winter months. This means we all need to take extra precautions together when it comes to COVID and the safety of Islanders.

“If we all take on these extra precautions as we go about our day-to-day lives, we should be able to sustain the excellent progress we have made so far. It is really down to Islanders taking personal responsibility for keeping themselves and the community safe.”

The new COVID-19 Testing Lab has begun processing samples in Jersey’s General Hospital. Once fully operational, the lab will maintain its current testing capacity. 

The Government has not renewed the contract with OpenCell to provide the lab services required for processing PCR test results. The new hospital lab has 3 new testing machines and will be officially opened with full processing capacity from 22 November.  

The Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, said: “It is fantastic news that the lab is up and running. It has taken a lot of effort to ensure the facility runs at the capacity we need, and I am confident in the success and efficiency of this operational change. I thank OpenCell for their services to date which have helped Jersey manage the urgent requirements for testing during this pandemic.”

COVID-19 PCR tests remain available for:

  • direct contacts 
  • those who are symptomatic
  • health, care and emergency service employees
  • those with positive Lateral Flow Test results
  • hospital pre-admissions
  • unvaccinated arrivals 

HCS General Manager James Mason said: “I am pleased that Health and Community Services colleagues can now offer this important service from within the Hospital. Islanders can be assured that their test results will be handled diligently by our teams, who aim to match the current expectations for results turn around”.   

With the current increase in Covid-19 cases in Jersey, as of today, there are 663 known cases with 4 islanders in hospital, the Covid-19 helpline and testing centre are both in high demand. 

To help reduce delay, Islanders are being urged to keep to their original appointment time for their PCR test, as this allows the service to test people as quickly as possible. 

If an appointment needs to be cancelled, Islanders can call the coronavirus helpline, and can now also email cancelpcrtest@gov.je.

Director of Testing and Tracing, Rachel Williams, said: “We are grateful to Islanders for their continued recognition that testing is an important measure to tackle the spread of COVID-19. From this week, we are making more test appointments available each day, particularly for people who have received a positive Lateral Flow Test and require a confirmatory PCR”.

Islanders are reminded to only book a symptomatic appointment if they have symptoms of Covid-19 (high temperature or fever, new continuous cough, loss or change to sense of smell or taste, headache, sore throat or runny nose).

Islander’s are being asked not to book a symptomatic appointment if they believe they are a Direct Contact but have no symptoms and to wait to be identified as a direct contact by the Contact Tracing Team, who will arrange a PCR test.

Anyone who needs to rearrange their testing appointment is asked to call the coronavirus helpline on 0800 735 55.

Mixed markets

As of midday, the FTSE 100 is off 0.47% thanks to drugmaker AstraZeneca following its profit miss. The FTSE 250 is off 0.1%.

European markets are mixed today. The CAC 40 is up 0.27% while the DAX gains 0.16%.

Numbers were looking positive as far as Wall Street was concerned. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 45 points, or 0.1%, to 35874. The S&P 500 rose 5 points, or 0.1%, to 4648 whilst, futures on the Nasdaq 100 rose 32 points, or 0.2%, to 16054.

Asian markets finished broadly higher today with shares in Japan leading the region. The Nikkei 225 is up 1.13% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is up 0.26% and China’s Shanghai Composite is up 0.18%.

UK trailing behind rest of G7

According to yesterday’s GDP data, the UK economy is trailing behind its G7 counterparts in its recovery from the epidemic.

The UK economy is still 2.1% below its pre-crisis level in Q4 2019, as growth fell to 1.3% in July-September. Its output fell by 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, more than any other major economy, as a recession set in as a result of lockdowns.

France, on the other hand, is only 0.1% below its pre-pandemic output level. The US economy is already larger, due to huge government spending and central bank stimulus measures that lifted growth over pre-Covid-19 levels.

Germany’s GDP is 1.1% lower than it was pre-crisis. Spain, although not a member of the G7, is still 6.6% lower after the lockdowns and travel restrictions severely harmed its tourism sector.

UK tax predictions

A study this week found that over three-quarters of Britons expect both their taxes and monthly bills to rise, as Britain faces a cost-of-living pressure.

According to the Ipsos MORI survey for the Standard, the majority of individuals expect the country’s general economic situation to worsen during the next 12 months.

Its results include the following for the coming year:

    9 out of 10 people anticipate an increase in their monthly bills and other regular outgoings

  77% believe their taxes will rise

  70% believe mortgage interest rates will rise

  82% anticipate an increase in the pace of inflation

The findings show the magnitude of the threat to living standards this winter and in the months ahead.

Statistics point to the fact that food costs are growing at their quickest rate since summer 2020. In September, grocery inflation rose to 2.1% as a result of supply chain disruptions.

According to the Bank of England’s predictions, after-tax, wages for many people will not keep pace with inflation during the next two years. Its governor, Andrew Bailey, believes inflation is already “eating” into families’ household budgets, and the pinch is only going to grow worse, with inflation expected to reach 5% next year.

National Insurance contributions in the UK will rise by 1.25% in April, while income tax thresholds will remain unchanged.

Footsie giant abandons pioneering project

Britain’s mission to become the world leader in electric car batteries suffered a setback yesterday when Johnson Matthey dropped a pioneering program.

The FTSE 100 chemicals business announced that it would abandon years of research and development because it was too far behind international competitors in China and Korea, which are now mass-producing batteries on a massive scale.

The judgment calls into question 400 high-skilled jobs, the majority of which are in County Durham and Oxfordshire.

Johnson Matthey’s change of plan came as the business also announced the departure of its eight-year-long CEO, Robert MacLeod, and cautioned that profits this year would be lower than some City predictions.

Johnson Matthey shares plummeted as a result of the poisonous mix of bad news.

The stock fell 19.1%, or 527p, to 2236p, erasing £900million from the company’s value.

Travel to USA opened

There were clear skies and a bright new dawn at London Heathrow for its two biggest customers, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic on Monday morning.

Both airlines took off simultaneously in a show of solidarity, flying west with planes full of passengers as the United States finally opened its borders to foreign visitors again.

The planes took to the skies more than 600 days after the US travel ban was implemented – in what the two airlines’ CEOs called a “pivotal moment” for the damaged sector.

During the 20-month period of restricted travel, both airlines reported massive losses and laid off thousands of employees.

For both airlines, the US market accounts for over 40% of their total revenue – nearly 40% for BA, which has six flights scheduled to New York JFK on Monday, and 10% of the 21 Virgin flights flying off.