Could Jersey switch to UK and France regional risk ratings?
The Island’s deputy medical officer of health, Dr Ivan Muscat, has admitted that a spike in cases in the St Malo area of Brittany is causing concern and that a regional approach could be the answer.
Spikes have also been recorded in parts of the north of England, with some restrictions being reintroduced in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and parts of Lancashire.
Dr Muscat said that the latest active case figure for St Malo – the entry point for the vast majority of Islanders heading to continental Europe by boat – and surrounding area was 23.3 cases per 100,000 people.
France is currently assessed on a national basis by Jersey, but this may change as St Malo approaches the figure of 25 that is the upper threshold for ‘green’ status on the Island’s ratings.
Deputy Kirsten Morel, who has been one of the politicians scrutinising the Island’s travel policy, agreed that regional assessments should be looked at.
‘I think we have to – one of the concerns is that the government treats countries as a whole and not individual areas. It would be appropriate to treat St Malo as different to the rest of France, as the virus isn’t spread equally,’ he said.
Deputy Morel said that a regional approach would mean Islanders could still pass through St Malo to other parts of France that retained green status, and backed a similar approach for England.
‘We need to remain flexible and have a more specific geographical view of areas. Potentially if there are amber areas in the north then people on a flight from Manchester would be treated differently to a flight from Gatwick.
‘Clearly we can’t have regional assessments for every country in the world, but for our nearest neighbours it makes sense.’
Other areas already have a form of regional assessment in Jersey’s list, with Madeira, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands classed as green while mainland Portugal and Spain are amber.
Arriving passengers from amber areas have to spend up to a week in self-isolation and record negative Covid-19 tests on both the first and fifth days after entering Jersey.
Dr Muscat said that guidance given to Islanders on Thursday evening regarding the situation in Brittany was intended to enable them to make ‘better-informed decisions’.
‘If it is a non-essential trip they may decide not to go, or if they plan to pass through St Malo and head to other parts of France, where the rates are lower, then they may choose not to spend time in St Malo before heading away,’ he said.
‘To separate out a region of a country is however more complex – but we do need to look at this and address it.’
The new guidance will not immediately affect the ability of French visitors to travel to Jersey for day-trips. A government spokesperson said that a total of 56 visitors had made day-trips to the Island from St Malo this month, and had been issued advice about limiting their social contact.
Jersey’s list of green, amber and red countries is regularly reviewed. Last weekend mainland Spain was reclassified as amber, while Belgium was one of three countries to be upgraded on Thursday.
Four more changes to the countries’ assessment were confirmed yesterday, with Monaco moving from green to amber status, while the Maldives, Palestine and Suriname were reclassified from amber to red.
European countries are graded in the light of figures for active cases per 100,000 people over the previous fortnight as published by the European Centre for Disease Control. The national figure for the UK fell slightly this week from 14.7 on Monday to 12.6 yesterday, but France recorded a gradual increase from 14.6 to 19 over the same period.
Jersey’s tally of known active cases remained at four as the latest Covid-19 data was published yesterday, with all four people being asymptomatic.
The latest figures for testing at Jersey Airport and the Elizabeth Terminal showed eight positive results among 14,800 tests on arriving passengers since 3 July. The average waiting time for test results over the past seven days has been 31 hours.