Border talks in progress as UK Covid-19 cases fall

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Dr Ivan Muscat, Jersey’s deputy medical officer of health, stressed that no decisions had been made on easing restrictions but admitted that borders were likely to reopen at different times, with travel in the Common Travel Area – the UK, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies – likely to be first. He said that the pace of the vaccination rollout in Jersey and the UK would be a key factor in determining when travel would be allowed.

During the summer and autumn last year, isolation requirements for arrivals varied depending on the number of active cases in the area from which they had travelled. The areas were ranked as either green, amber or red.

However, following a surge in the UK in December, all areas were ranked red, requiring a ten-day isolation period.

Infection rates in both Jersey and the UK have fallen significantly in recent weeks. Jersey currently has eight known active cases, while the UK’s most recent seven-day rate is 60.4 cases per 100,000 people. It peaked at 642 on 4 January.

Based on recent seven-day rolling averages, all local authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland, and all but two in Scotland, would be classed as green or amber. Much of England would be the same. Case rates remain higher in some areas of the Midlands and parts of the north of England.

Most London boroughs now have rolling case rates below 50 and would be classed as green, as would Cardiff (39) and Edinburgh (42). Belfast would be amber (75).

Dr Muscat said: ‘It is entirely possible that different jurisdictions will be managed in different ways. There is an affinity for countries within the CTA with similar rates [for cases and vaccination] to ours.

‘Variants are also important. There are 33 countries for whom the UK has special measures and we are aligned with that UK stance.

‘We are doing our own homework ready for discussions with other countries and to align with what’s being agreed internationally.’

Deputy Rob Ward, who chairs the Safer Travel Guidelines Review Panel, said ‘as much notice as is possible’ should be given before any changes were made for the benefit of Scrutiny, Islanders and businesses.

Deputy Rob Ward. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30411383)

‘Let’s not rush to open borders,’ said Deputy Ward. ‘Erring on the side of caution is something that most people in Jersey would be very happy to see.’

He added the numbers for any traffic-light system needed to be looked at ‘very very carefully’.

The green classification was raised from 25 to 50 cases per 100,000 on 29 September.

Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell minutes released in January revealed concerns

from scientific experts over border policy and described this change of threshold as a ‘political decision’.

Senator Kristina Moore called for a ‘consistent approach’ and said any reasons for the government deviating from the science should be ‘clear’.

‘When we are making such calls on the public in terms of their freedoms, it is only right and proper that we are open and transparent and willing to discuss the matter,’ she said.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré said at a Scrutiny meeting on Wednesday that the ‘reality’ was there would be no change in Covid travel policy until at least the end of March.

STAC has had discussions on travel and will meet again on Monday, before advising the government.

Meanwhile, guidance preventing household gatherings is to be lifted on Sunday – one day earlier than originally planned – to allow people to meet for Mother’s Day.

Jersey’s regional travel classification system explained

GREEN ZONE: Areas with fewer than 50 Covid cases per 100,000 people. Passengers were tested on arrival, day five and day ten and required to isolate until they received a negative result from the first test.

AMBER ZONE: Areas with between 50 and 120 cases per 100,000 people. People from these zones – or who had spent at least one night in the zone in the 14 days before travel – were tested on arrival, day five and day ten and had to isolate until their day-five test came back negative.

RED ZONE: Areas with more than 120 cases per 100,000 people. People from these zones – or who had spent at least one night in the zone in the 14 days before travel – were tested on arrival, day five and day ten and required to isolate until their day-ten test came back negative.

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