COVID press briefing 24th March 2020 – Lockdown

The statement I made at this press briefing followed an intense few hours and days as we considered the evidence with regard to what was happening with the spread of COVID-19. It was clear that we could not rely on the testing from the UK, that the fact we had community seeding meant that the risk of spread of the infection had increased and if, we did not do anything, our health and care services would be overrun, with knock-on consequences for those requiring care.

The sheer enormity of the decision to lockdown was apparent as, firstly, the Civil Contingencies Authority discussed what powers it needed to give to ensure action could be taken by the Committee for Health & Social Care, and subsequently when the Committee for Health & Social Care met to consider the appropriate and proportionate action that needed to be taken.

This was an intense time, but I will never forget how calmly everyone acted, working together in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

This is what I said;

I am sure many of you who are watching and listening now will be aware that there have been a number of jurisdictions that have already gone into lockdown. However, that word means different things in different places. As we have always said, the actions we have taken have been guided by the advice from our Director of Public Health, learning from experiences overseas but at all times considering what is appropriate for the Bailiwick of Guernsey. This has meant we have adopted a cautious approach, doing the right thing at the right time taking into account the fact we are a small community with only one hospital and without the infrastructure of a larger jurisdiction.

That has determined our decision to lock down now and that has informed what we are now asking of you, the people of the Bailiwick over the coming weeks to help us minimise the impact of the spread of the disease and protect our community from the worst that it could do.

So, I will now set out in more detail what the 3 measures we are bringing in – of staying at home, closing non-essential shops and services, and stopping public gatherings, mean for you.

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons.

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, limited to only a run, walk, or cycle for one hour a day – alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, if instructed to do so by a healthcare worker or required to do so having called 999, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person. 
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

These four reasons are exceptions – even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

These measures must be followed by everyone. Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded.

If you work in a critical sector or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school. Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes

We are ordering certain businesses and other venues to close with immediate effect. These include, but are not limited to, all pubs, clubs, cinemas, restaurants, cafes and non-essential retail stores. Also included are libraries, community and youth centres, indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, community places within parks, places of worship, hotels, B&Bs, campsites and boarding houses except those for permanent residents and key workers. 

To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, we are also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people. 

There are only two exceptions to this rule:

  • Where the gathering is of a group of people who live together – this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home; or
  • Where the gathering is essential for work purposes – but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.

We are also stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.

I take no pleasure in telling you this. Announcing something that impacts every single person of the Bailiwick. It goes against all my instincts as a democratically elected politician who fundamentally believes in the freedom of the individual and whose ancestors fought for that freedom in Flanders and further afield.

However, we are facing the most formidable foe that we have seen since the Second World War that has the potential to cause the death of so many in our community before their time, that we now have no option than to take this action.

I have been so heartened by the positive way you have responded to the impositions we have already placed on you these last couple of weeks. The next few weeks will be difficult for us all but by following these measures and supporting each other, every one of us will be contributing to ensuring our community continues to be strong over the months and years ahead. Thank you. 

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