Island still on course for end of lockdown

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The UK’s plan to lift all remaining restrictions on 21 June is now on a knife-edge – with experts saying the next seven days will be crucial to determining the impact of the strain.

As many as three-quarters of all new cases could be linked to the more transmissible variant, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the country ‘may need to wait’ before lifting its remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

But following advice from the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell, Health Minister Richard Renouf said there was currently no need to push back the final stage of reconnection, which would allow Islanders to have an unlimited number of guests in their home or garden.

Large-scale events would also be allowed, and nightclubs would be permitted to reopen.

However, the minister added that this was dependent on ‘positive case numbers remaining low’.

On Thursday, it was announced that a ‘small number’ of people travelling into Jersey had tested positive for the Indian variant and were in isolation.

The presence of the strain in the Island was confirmed two days before the start of the half-term holiday, when thousands of people are expected to pass through the borders.

Meanwhile, Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham told a Scrutiny panel yesterday that he believed an extension of Covid restrictions beyond June was ‘unlikely’, but that the spread of the Indian variant was being monitored very closely.

The Island’s nightlife and events industries are continuing to prepare for reopening and remain confident that the 14 June target date would not be pushed back.

Martin Sayers, owner of Vittoria nightclub, said the Indian variant’s appearance was ‘very concerning’, but that he expected nightclubs to reopen and festivals to be held as planned given the progress of the vaccination programme – which has now administered over 100,000 doses.

‘I saw in the news that the vaccine is effective against the variant,’ he said. ‘So I imagine it’s going to be OK. We are looking forward to reopening, although we will be restricting numbers to make sure we are not overcrowded.’

He added: ‘We will wait and see – it’s certainly a rollercoaster but we will just have to manage it.’

J P Anquetil, owner of Rojo nightclub and organiser of the Wonky Town Festival, said there was ‘no need to panic’ unless the number of active cases started to increase.

‘It would only be a concern if the cases go up.

‘If the new variants are here but the numbers don’t go up, then unless there is a sudden rise things should go ahead,’ he said.

Mr Anquetil added that discussions over the reopening schedule for nightclubs were taking place and that the current plans ‘appear to be going ahead as normal’.

‘We are getting ready to rock,’ he said.

Deputy Mike Higgins, who organises the Jersey International Air Display, said that the Indian variant had been his ‘biggest concern’ – but that he was ‘confident’ the event would still take place.

‘The truth of the matter is that nobody knows,’ he said. ‘All anyone can do is watch. Even if an event has been given a permit from the Bailiff’s Panel it can still be withdrawn. So if there is a spike or something then we will just have to accept that, but based on what I’ve seen I believe that we will have an air display.’

Today also marks the one-year anniversary since the first PCR tests were carried out on passengers arriving into the Island. Since then, more than 400,000 tests have been carried out.

The arrivals testing programme currently has 120 staff at the Airport, Harbour and Airport drive-through.

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