COVID press briefing 5th June 2020

I made the following statement at the press briefing on 5th June.

We are now a week into Phase 4, we’ve had no new positive cases.  It’s therefore understandable that some of you may be asking why we just don’t move to phase 5 now. 

In responding to that I think it is important that we don’t forget just how quickly we have moved since lockdown, indeed faster than we possibly could have imagined a couple of months ago but at the same time in a logical way, based on the evidence and taking into account what we know of the virus and how it spreads.

Phase 4, which we have introduced at the earliest opportunity, has been a profound change, albeit things are a bit different from before lockdown – such as needing to queue to get into a shop, giving your name at a café and not being able to stand at the bar. Whilst it is great news that we have reached this phase so quickly, complacency is our biggest enemy. The need to follow public health advice, in particular social distancing and hygiene guidance is essential at this stage, ensuring any cases that are out there can be managed and the spread of infection controlled.

At the same time Health and care services need to follow Public Health advice like everyone else. Just as in the wider community, things can’t go back to where they were immediately. Therefore, I am asking you to continue to work with us and be patient as we work through the exit phases. 

We know that even before the COVID-19 pandemic people were waiting patiently for certain procedures or services. COVID-19 has clearly resulted in longer delays. Of course, this is far from ideal and is frustrating for all concerned, including my Committee especially given the improvements that had been made pre-pandemic. 

Because of the fantastic response from all of you supporting our public health messages we have been able to restart services ahead of many other jurisdictions in Western Europe but we cannot bring everything back all at once. To do so would compromise the safety of service users and our staff. 

Reduced services will not last forever but I am afraid they are a reality in Phase 4. Dr Rabey will provide more information in a minute on what services will look like in phase 4. The comms team have also prepared some graphics to show you what services are being provided in Phase 4 and how these will be extended in Phases 5 and 6. This information is available from the webpage and will be on social media over the next couple of days.

Please bear with us, we are working as quickly as we can to get services back to normal and, most importantly, please support our staff, like Dr Rabey, working hard to make this happen.

So, moving on, as we slowly phase back to normality, the Committee for Health & Social Care wants to understand how your lives have been affected by lockdown, building on what we have heard both anecdotally and through the many of you who have contributed through the community monitoring tool. Next week we will be publishing a survey which asks you to share your experiences. We’d like to know what has worked well, but also what has been hard for you, and what you think we could have done better. 

You’ll have seen, over the past few weeks, that there are two important strands to the Committee’s way of working. First, we seek to understand and apply the evidence; and, second, we try to find solutions that work for Guernsey, and reflect the things that make us special or unique. This has been true of our approach to the pandemic, but I think it also describes our approach to all areas of our work. That’s why, before the pandemic, we had started a series of what are called JSNAs – Joint Strategic Needs Assessments – which seek to understand Islanders’ health and wellbeing needs, and how we can make our services work well for you. 

This survey continues that approach. It’s part of our commitment to keep learning, and to build back better. You know that there’s a risk we might find ourselves returning to an earlier phase of lockdown in future. If that happens, we want to be able to take into account the things you found challenging this time, and see if there’s anything we can do to help make things better in the future. Even if, as we all hope, we don’t have to return to an earlier phase, you will know that Public Health makes regular plans to make sure we’re prepared for the risk of a future pandemic. It’s vitally important that we take this opportunity to learn from what we, as a community, have just been through, while it’s still fresh in our minds. That way we will help to ensure that our Island is even better prepared for any new challenges we may face in future. I’ll say more on this next week.

And finally, for those who have not yet heard, yesterday the Committee agreed to extend opening hours for licensed premises to 11:30 as of today. We were happy with the way things had gone this week and, as well as considering how it would help the hospitality industry, thought it made sense to make the change at the earliest opportunity, so cheers!

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