Tuesday 24 March 2020
Yesterday I said: "I promise you that we will keep you informed of what we are doing and why; I will level with you and I tell it to you straight - good news or bad." And I also said, "Let me be very clear, we may still need to lockdown - and we might need to do it soon. We will do it - and we will have no hesitation in doing it very quickly - if, and when, the evidence of infection in our local community shows that it is the right thing to do."
Today, as promised, I am going to level with you - I have bad news. Today it is the right thing to impose stricter measures on our community - and to do so through emergency regulations made today. The regulations will enable the Committee for Health & Social Care to issue directions intended to effectively 'lock down' the community as far as reasonably possible. This will be for an initial period of 14 days, before the end of which we will have reviewed and decided whether it is necessary to extend this period. Having said that, to prepare ourselves psychologically, I think all islanders should assume that it will be necessary for 28 days.
This decision has nothing whatsoever to do with the UK's decision yesterday and is solely to reflect our own situation, which represents a more cautious approach than the UK. I was hoping we could avoid this, but we always knew it was one possible outcome. I will be honest that it has come sooner than I imagined - and I can't hide my disappointment at that. I am going to explain to you what has changed since 11 am yesterday morning.
At 9pm last night, I received a 'phone call to advise that another positive test result had been received. Dr Brink will provide the relevant details around this case, suffice to say that, subject to the requisite contact tracing which took place overnight and this morning, by 1pm today, the Public Health team were able to confirm, that this case was one of secondary community transmission. On the back of that advice, the Civil Contingencies Authority was convened for 3pm to take the decision to impose stricter measures on the islands of the Bailiwick. At 5pm, the Committee forHealth & Social Care was convened following the meeting of the Civil Contingencies Authority, to provide the directions required to enable enforcement of these new measures. I would like to thank everyone for moving so quickly in response to new information - and their ability to do so is a testament to the forward planning that had preceded today's decision, but in anticipation of it. I said yesterday that we would have no hesitation in moving very quickly - and that is exactly what we have now done.
When I was first elected to office in 2012, it never entered my head, that 8 years later I would be the one signing the Regulations imposing the most far reaching deprivation of personal liberties since the Second World War. And if you had told me that I would be doing so with absolute certainty that it is the right thing to do and without a moment's hesitation, I would have laughed at you.
Even during the Occupation, the islands' residents had more personal freedom to move about our islands than will be the case for the time being, which illustrates the scale of the threat to the community and our willingness to take tough decisions quickly.
But there is still good news. As you heard yesterday, significant preparations have gone on already - for example the development of the 'hot ICU' that Heidi referred to. And contrary to rumours that some of you may have heard, I can confirm that we do not have an outbreak in the hospital and we have not had any Covid-19 related deaths. Once again, I would advise strongly against listening to, or spreading such rumours. The longer we remain in a lull before any storm that may follow, the more time we have to continue preparations.
Heidi will provide the initial explanation of what these measures mean. There will be many practical questions. We have worked at great speed in the best interests of islanders so please bear with us, we won't have the answer to every situation tonight. More information will be available online this evening in English and 4 other languages, followed by a leaflet drop to all homes over the next day or so.
Dr Brink can provide a more detailed explanation of what happens next in terms of the strategy for the management of this disease, but I will provide an overview. These measures will allow for anyone who is infected, but currently not showing symptoms, the chance to develop and show those symptoms. Some of these will almost certainly require hospital care, hence the strategy which is to try and prevent further cases that are likely to push our hospital and healthcare services beyond our ability to cope, which we have spoken about so often in the last 2 weeks. This approach is also linked to a strategy of 'test, test, test' - which, as we said yesterday, will be so much stronger when we have our own test facility up and running on island. Anyone with any respiratory symptoms whatsoever in the community or hospital, staff members and other groups we consider necessary will be tested. When we find little evidence of widespread community seeding then we will be able lift these measures, either permanently or on a temporary basis.
I know it's traditional at press conferences for the media to ask the questions. But I'm going to ask the first and obvious one. Yesterday you said and I quote, 'we've got this.' So the question today is: have you still 'got this?' And the answer remains an emphatic 'yes, we've got this.' But today, if there really are any sceptics out there, even they, surely, have now grasped the importance of everyone doing what we have been saying - namely, you must follow public health advice.
Yesterday, I spoke about the downsides of locking down the community, not only in terms of the impact of individuals' incomes and businesses but more importantly on the mental health and wellbeing of the community. Today, we have decided that those downsides are outweighed by the upsides in protecting the community as a whole. And now the decision has been made, as a natural optimist, let's focus on the positives. It may be an opportunity to spend more time with immediate family, without the pressures of what we used to regard as 'normal life.' It is still OK to smile and laugh. It may be an opportunity to read those books or watch that box set that you've been meaning to; or catch-up on paperwork or some jobs around the home. Now may even be a chance to complete your tax return, especially if you are expecting a tax refund! I for one, am wondering whether I might finally get to that 'clear the loft' line which has been on my personal to-do list for 20 years.
In short, today's advice is simple, Stay at Home. Stay in regular touch by 'phone or video call with friends and family. We will continue to update gov.gg so that you have a reliable source of facts. This decision does not change my other advice from yesterday: don't panic; keep calm; stay strong; and maintain good personal hygiene amongst your household. If you start to feel unwell and are symptomatic, follow the public health advice on how to self-isolate from others within your home and call the coronavirus helpline.
Rest assured that the whole of government is mobilised to continue to do everything we can to protect you, your families, as well as ours. We will never compromise or risk that overriding objective.