A common threat producing similar policy responses but applied in subtly different ways


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Gavin St. Pier Photo by Adrian Miller 27-02-19 (31291177)

Jersey and Guernsey ARE on divergent or converging Covid paths?

At the time of writing, Jersey has 1,593 cases and 9,355 contacts, while Guernsey has 15 with 39 isolated contacts. Additionally, Covid has seriously affected schools in Jersey, with attendance falling to 79.7% in secondary and 91.1% in primary, while Guernsey reports no such disruption. So, despite the difference in population size, Jersey’s current case count is very different from Guernsey’s. But statistics alone don’t really tell the whole story.

Although Guernsey has never formally pursued elimination of the virus, this is in practice what it has managed to deliver for most of the duration of the pandemic to date, with the exception of two full closures relatively short from March to June of last year and from January to March this year.

This allowed a full economic, social and associative life outside these periods. Guernsey has seen many “free days” for a while.

Jersey consciously pursued a path that allowed more open borders with greater acceptance of the consequences to do so. While this allowed more travel for residents and non-residents, it did not allow economic and social life to fully resume and required non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as social distancing and face coverings. , Longer. Jersey’s “Freedom Day” has been pushed back a little further. So far so divergent.

However, both communities are now pursuing ‘vaccination strategies’ with the aim of ‘learning to live with Covid’ – ‘responsibly’, we add in Guernsey, although this may or may not add a lot of substance is questionable. .

But what do these vaccination strategies involve and what are their objectives?

This really means getting as many adults vaccinated as possible – remembering that unlike in the United States, vaccination of children over 12 is not yet recommended by the JCVI – the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization of the United Kingdom – United, on whose advice and direct the two islands The STACs (Scientific and Technical Advisory Committees) and public health teams trust.

The latest statistics in Guernsey are from July 13 and show 75% double dose and 19% single dose, or 94% in total and increasing daily. These are phenomenal statistics and will surely place the island at the top of all world immunization rankings once the program is completed.

This is a huge tribute to everyone involved in organizing the program but also, of course, to the public’s lack of “vaccine hesitation” compared to many other jurisdictions.

Frustratingly, Jersey’s release of its vaccine statistics is a bit slower than Guernsey’s, making direct comparisons impossible.

As of July 4, in Jersey, 63% of all adults had received a double dose and 19% a single dose, or 82% in total. With different delays in reporting, the two islands appear to be broadly on the same track.

Another area of ​​contention is testing policy. At one level, Guernsey (and the Isle of Man) have decided to relax their border controls more than Jersey. From July 1, any doubly vaxxed person arriving from the common travel zone (CTA) can enter through the “blue channel” without testing or isolation; but scratch a little harder and you will find that Guernsey’s requirements for single or non-vaxxed arriving from CTA (or further) remain stricter than Jersey’s, requiring more testing and longer isolation.

Guaranteeing the observation that Guernsey discriminates against the non-fully vaccinated with these stricter requirements more than Jersey, stretching the ties of #GuernseyTogether, some in Guernsey fear that by not testing the majority of those who arrive, unlike Jersey, we will not let us know more exactly the number of cases that we can have wandering in our streets.

This has induced nervousness among individuals and businesses making their own decisions to protect themselves or their workforce by avoiding or discouraging the risk of contact with those who have recently arrived on the island via the Blue Canal. .

This has spread to some pubs and restaurants turning down business, if customers fall into that category. The overall net effect on the economy of more residents traveling (and spending) off the island compared to more visitors visiting (and spending) on ​​the island is going to be blurred by such decisions – but that, it seems, is the nature of ‘learning to live with Covid.’

Only time and hindsight will reveal whether Guernsey’s decision not to test vaxxed fully will trigger community seeding of Covid among the unvaccinated – primarily those under 18 of course (by the time all adults have been vaccinated ).

Both islands (and the UK it seems) have good evidence that most people in this age group who are infected will not get seriously ill or put too much strain on their own. health systems.

The least well-demonstrated hypothesis is that few people in this cohort will be impacted too negatively for too long by the long-Covid. For this reason alone, I would say that all governments have a responsibility to do what they can to contain the spread in this age group and not just let it spread in what would become an unforeseen experiment to bring about any the community to “immune protection levels of immunity by a combination of vaccination for the most part and infection for everyone.

My last observation concerns the cost of the pandemic on public finances. While Guernsey and Jersey have adopted similar measures to protect and support their economies and businesses with direct financial support, the overall cost is dramatically different.

The Jersey Government’s 2021-24 plan estimates the cost for the 2020-24 period could be £ 440million. Guernsey’s 2021-25 government work plan predicts that Guernsey’s costs over a similar period will be about a quarter of that. Even taking into account the different sizes of government and population, the cost to Guernsey will be about half that of Jersey.

The history of responses to the Islands’ pandemic has been one of a common threat producing similar policy responses but applied in subtly different ways, which produced quite divergent experiences.

Even now, as the islands seek to adjust to a post-pandemic normalcy converging around similar vaccination strategies, the later stages in our islands’ social history could still be very different as they go. will eventually be written.

lGavin St Pier is a politician from Guernsey. He previously served as Chair of the Island Policy and Resources Committee.

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