Confirmation of Jersey’s tally of active cases – the first time such a figure has been officially released – came as Guernsey revealed it is to effectively end its lockdown from Saturday 30 May.
Guernsey’s move away from lockdown measures, first introduced on 25 March, came as Sarnian ministers revealed the strategy could safely move faster than expected as a result of the lack of any confirmed cases since the start of this month. Just two of the 252 Guernsey cases remain active.
Schools in Guernsey will reopen from 8 June, which has been confirmed as the earliest-possible date at which Jersey schools could reopen.
Education Minister Tracey Vallois has pledged to update parents, pupils and teachers next week.
Dr Ivan Muscat, the Deputy Medical Officer of Health, said at a media briefing that fears about children significantly spreading Covid-19 were unfounded and that he saw no medical reason why Jersey schools could not reopen.
Dr Muscat said evidence showed that the closure of schools had had a minimal impact on the Island’s rate of transmission, with analysis both locally and globally disproving an assumption from the early stages of the pandemic that children would act as ‘super-spreaders’ for coronavirus in the same way as for influenza.
‘We have provided scientific, medical information about children,’ he said. ‘Medically it is not the case that reopening schools would cause a problem for children or the Island, although I recognise that practicalities need to be sorted.’
The briefing, which was not broadcast live and proceeded without ministerial involvement, also focused on the growth of the Island’s testing regime.
Dr Muscat said significant work was being carried out to trace those with the virus in the hope of avoiding ‘third-generation’ cases where it proved impossible to establish how someone who was infected had come into contact with Covid-19.
‘We have not seen any third-generation cases for the past two weeks, and the positive cases in that time [13 have been reported since 7 May] have been identifiable as linked to small clusters in homes or care homes,’ he said.
Dr Muscat added that Islanders should not be concerned about large volumes of pending results, with a figure of around 400 published every day this week.
‘Most of the tests that are being done proactively are being processed in the UK,’ he said. ‘It takes 24 hours, and by the time you get the results there will be another batch being sent off.’
Officials are currently looking at measures that could enable travel routes to the Island to reopen, with the potential for incoming passengers to be tested before boarding flights to Jersey, or on arrival.
Steve Skelton, the government’s director of strategic innovation, said that the escalation of swab tests to establish whether a person had Covid-19 meant that the Island was ‘seeking out’ new cases among essential workers, many of whom may not have been showing symptoms.
‘Any new cases that are recorded should be seen as a positive, as we are chasing down new cases that might formerly not have been diagnosed,’ he said.
Mr Skelton said there were discussions with contact-tracing bodies from other jurisdictions, adding that he felt it was ‘very feasible’ that appropriate systems could be put in place.
‘It’s not easy, but the government is prepared to respond to the necessary scale,’ he said.
While swab testing is being geared up towards a potential maximum level of 500 tests per day, the separate antibody tests that show whether a person may have had Covid-19 are also being stepped up, with a second round of sampling due to be carried out next week.
Dr Muscat said that physical distancing and good hygiene measures remained the best means of reducing the risk of infection.