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|2020 coronavirus pandemic in the Bailiwick of Guernsey|
Map of confirmed cases per island
|Disease||Coronavirus disease 2019|
|Virus strain||Severe acute respiratory|
syndrome coronavirus 2
|Location||Bailiwick of Guernsey|
|First outbreak||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Index case||Imported from Tenerife, Spain|
|Arrival date||9 March 2020|
(3 weeks and 3 days ago)
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the Bailiwick of Guernsey is part of an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a novel infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case in the Bailiwick was confirmed on 9 March when a person tested positive in Guernsey after returning from Tenerife, and transmission within the Bailiwick was confirmed on 24 March. As of 2 April, there have been 97 cases identified in the Bailiwick—all on the island of Guernsey—and 1 person has died from the infection; no cases have been reported in Sark, Herm or Alderney.
The response by the States of Guernsey has been led by the Civil Contingencies Authority (CCA)—a senior cross-committee body responsible for coordinating actions in circumstances which present a serious risk to the health and welfare of the island—chaired by Gavin St Pier and advised by the senior Policy and Resources Committee (P&R) and the Committee for Health and Social Care (HSC). Following the first confirmed case in the Bailiwick, the CCA enacted the Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations 2020 on 17 March, a statutory instrument which enables the Medical Officer of Health to implement emergency measures enforceable by law; the first of which mandated that anyone arriving in the Bailiwick self-isolate for 14 days. Early measures focused on behaviour changing publicity; encouraging hand-washing, respiratory hygiene and social distancing measures, and advising against non-essential travel. Following the first confirmed case from on-island transmission, the CCA announced an immediate 'lockdown' starting from midnight on 25 March, comprising wide-ranging restrictions on freedom of movement, enforceable in law, whereby people have been ordered to stay at home and 'non-essential' businesses have been ordered to close.
The pandemic has led to socio-economic disruption, including the cancellation and postponement of sporting and cultural events, the closure of schools and colleges except for vulnerable children and children of critical workers, restrictions on travel (both within and to and from the Bailiwick), fears of supply shortages resulting in panic buying of essential items, and the shutdown of pubs, bars and restaurants (including those offering delivery services). Several schemes and policies have been implemented to provide financial support to businesses and individuals in order to limit the impact of the pandemic on the local economy. St Pier—Guernsey's Chief Minister—has compared the threat to public health from the pandemic and the restriction of personal liberties as a result of the government-imposed lockdown measures in the Bailiwick to those seen during the second world war.
Initially, samples were sent to be tested at specialist laboratories in the UK in the absence of similar facilities in the Bailiwick, resulting in delays of over 48 hours for results in some cases. On 30 March, Guernsey's own testing facility became operational, delivering results within 24 hours and prompting the adoption of a broader community testing programme. As of 2 April, 811 samples have been tested, yielding 97 positive results and 665 negative results with 49 results yet to be confirmed.[note 1]
A new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in late December 2019 as the cause of a cluster of cases of an acute respiratory disease now referred to as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As of March 2020 more than 170 countries and territories have been affected, with major outbreaks in China, Italy, South Korea and Iran. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterised the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic.
In accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for managing a pandemic, the States of Guernsey response and guidance has been designed specifically for the Bailiwick and continues to adapt in line with changing numbers of cases and developing situations in other jurisdictions.
The response is led by the Civil Contingencies Authority (CCA), a body made up of several committee Presidents and chaired by the head of the Policy and Resources Committee (P&R)—the island's senior politician—Gavin St Pier. The body is responsible for coordinating actions in circumstances "that present a serious risk to the health and welfare of Island residents". The CCA is advised by the States of Guernsey's senior committee, P&R, and the Committee for Health and Social Care (HSC). The Coronavirus Political Executive Group was also established to include political representation from all principal States of Guernsey committees to make decisions on matters which do not engage the CCA.
On 30 March, St Pier revealed that the States of Guernsey were considering temporary changes to its system of government following concerns over a lack of scrutiny of decisions being made by the CCA—a body designed for "short-term emergencies"—due to the States of Deliberation not sitting as normal.
Following the first confirmed case in the Bailiwick, confirmed on 9 March, the CCA enacted the Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations 2020 on 17 March, a statutory instrument which enabled the Medical Officer of Health to implement emergency measures enforceable by law; the first of which mandated that anyone arriving in the Bailiwick self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival from midnight on 19 March. The regulations also grant law enforcement officers detain individuals whom they suspect may have the coronavirus and present a risk of spreading it to others until the Medical Officer of Health can advise further. On 18 March the States of Guernsey utilised for the first time the databases of Sure, JT and Airtel-Vodafone to send a mass SMS message with information about self-isolation to numbers used in the Bailiwick. The technology is reserved for critical emergencies or public health threats.
Early advice given to the public by the States of Guernsey, forming the foundations of the 'containment' phase of the response' included behaviour changing publicity encouraging hand-washing for at least twenty seconds, avoiding touching your own face, and practising respiratory hygiene as well as advising social distancing and keeping at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others, especially those showing symptoms. In addition, the States of Guernsey published advice on supporting others in the community, encouraging the public to telephone elderly or vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours, offer to shop for those in self-isolation and to avoid non-essential off-island travel. The Health Improvement Commission also published advice and resources with guidance on exercises to keep families healthy and active during self-isolation, recommending two 20-30 minute sessions per day to maintain physical and mental wellbeing. They also clarified that while individuals may go outside to exercise alone while social distancing, they should stay at home where possible.
Following the confirmation of a case resulting from on-island transmission, the States of Guernsey announced in a live broadcast on 24 March that it was implementing a 'lockdown' for an initial period of two weeks from 00:01 on 25 March, whereby restrictions would be placed on people's freedom of movement, enforceable by law. Gavin St Pier drew comparisons with the restrictions to those imposed during the occupation of the Channel Islands during world war two, commenting "These measures introduce the most far reaching deprivation of personal liberties since the second world war". The measures require people to stay at home except for shopping for basic necessities, medical requirements, two hours of exercise per day, and travelling to and from work for 'essential' jobs which 'absolutely cannot be done from home'. Other measures include the closure of all non-essential shops, businesses and community spaces, and the banning of public gatherings of more than two people (excluding people from the same household). Weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies were also banned, while funerals would continue but with only immediate family permitted to attend. On 29 March, the States of Guernsey issued detailed revisions to the lockdown measures for businesses and the self-employed following some confusion over which sectors were still able to work.
On 26 March, the States of Guernsey announced 'shielding' measures for extremely vulnerable individuals, advising them to stay at home for 12 weeks and minimise all physical contact with others. With the number of cases reaching 91 on 1 April, the response was reported to be moving to the 'delay' phase of the strategy. The States of Guernsey also clarified that leaving the house to escape domestic abuse was acceptable as it would be considered an essential reason, and published guidance for victims of domestic abuse and recommended an app which allows the user's smartphone to become a safety device, sending their location to designated contacts when activated by shaking the phone. St Pier also appealed for islanders to complete a voluntary online form in order to gather information on "how the community are feeling", and asked islanders to send questions to the States via email in order to produce answers to frequently asked questions at the next press conference.
Without testing facilities available locally, samples were initially sent off-island to be tested by a specialist laboratory in the UK until the Bailiwick had developed its own. Due to the increased demand on UK laboratories to conduct tests, the time taken for results to be received was significantly increased beyond the standard 48 hours. On 21 March, the Policy and Resources Committee announced that it expected Guernsey to be carrying out tests by April and to deliver results within 24 hours. In a letter sent to the UK's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on 20 March, Gavin St Pier explained how the UK testing centre initially testing Guernsey samples had discontinued their support and demanded a guarantee that testing support would be provided to the Crown Dependencies from the UK until Guernsey had established its own testing facility; the response from Johnson obliged, confirming that Colindale Public Health Laboratory would provide testing facilities until Guernsey could do so itself.
On 24 March, the Director of Public Health confirmed that the island would have two ways of testing for the coronavirus, with results available in half a day, and that tests would be prioritised for healthcare workers, hospital patients with respiratory symptoms and islanders showing the relevant symptoms needing to see a doctor. On 26 March, it was announced that the final piece of equipment required for on-island testing had arrived and that testing would begin once staff were trained and due checks were completed. On 30 March, it was announced that local testing facility was in use, meaning results would be available far quicker than tests conducted off-island. As a result, Public Health announced that from 31 March they will conduct a broader community testing programme, testing individuals suffering respiratory problems at local doctors' surgeries. The States of Guernsey has described the testing process as 'quick and simple', saying that those unable to drive or be driven to the screening facility can make arrangements to be tested at home.
Dr Nicola Brink, the Director for Public Health, explained the process of dealing with suspected cases as follows: detection of a possible case; immediate quarantine; and contact tracing. The purpose of contact tracing is to identifying those at risk of transmission from that possible case and test, monitor and isolate them to stop the spread of the disease. Those who have been contacted directly by the States of Guernsey and ordered to self-isolate (such as individuals with confirmed cases, contacts of confirmed cases and individuals booked for testing or awaiting results) are subject to regular welfare checks; the checks were originally conducted by Public Health Services before being taken over by third sector volunteers. Positive cases are re-tested 14 days later or 48 hours after any symptoms have been resolved (whichever is latest).
As of 2 April, 811 samples have been tested, yielding 97 positive results and 665 negative results with 49 results yet to be confirmed, and the States of Guernsey have capacity to test up to 75 samples per day (40 on-island and 35 through a UK laboratory), though this is subject to fast change. The actual number of cases is likely to be higher than the preceding figure due to the relatively low number of tests carried out. As of 26 March, the States of Guernsey have identified the UK, France, Tenerife, mainland Spain, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as local transmissions, as sources of the infection in the Bailiwick. The youngest to test positive for COVID-19 in the Bailiwick is a teenager and all confirmed cases so far are in Guernsey; none have been identified in Sark, Herm or Alderney.
On 19 March the States of Guernsey announced that it had made available a £5 million 'hardship fund' for any islanders (excluding those already eligible to receive national social security benefits) struggling financially from the impact of the pandemic. The same day, the States of Guernsey also published advice to businesses which announced a number of financial 'easements' including deferrals on social insurance payments and commercial tax on real property, and reliefs on rents from government-owned property. On 20 March the finalised emergency financial measures were approved which include £30 million to support businesses, a £40 million loan guarantee scheme for locally-trading firms and a £25 million temporary overdraft for local airline Aurigny.
The States of Guernsey set up a government-funded health insurance scheme to cover the medical bills of any Bailiwick residents who fall ill while visiting the UK, providing they can prove they cannot afford private health insurance. The States of Guernsey also announced on 23 March that it would be amending population law to protect non-residents who might find themselves without employment as a result of the pandemic and would otherwise be forced to leave the island. On 24 March the Guernsey Financial Services Commission (GFSC) approved time extensions for businesses to file their financial returns in light of operational issues suffered as a result of the pandemic.
On 24 March the Policy and Resources Committee announced two new schemes to support businesses and the self-employed, with both schemes totalling an estimated £41 million. The payroll co-sharing scheme—lasting for an initial period of 13 weeks—will cover 80% of employee wages, based on the Guernsey minimum wage of £8.50 per hour (equating to £238 for a 35-hour week), with the remaining 20% expected to be covered by businesses themselves; there is no restriction placed on the size of the businesses eligible for this scheme. The grants scheme allows small businesses (of fewer than 10 people) and the self-employed to be awarded a £3000 grant to be utilised in "whichever way they deem appropriate". The committee predicted that around 1,700 businesses will qualify for the scheme with roughly 10,500 total employees.
President of the Policy and Resources Committee, Gavin St Pier, confirmed on 27 March that local banks had been given flexibility by their regulator—the Bank of England—to give more loans to individuals and businesses and encouraged anyone in need to contact them and arrange a loan. On 30 March, a £40m loan guarantee scheme was launched by the States of Guernsey in partnership with the governments of the other Crown Dependencies of Jersey and the Isle of Man, and operated by Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBSI and NatWest International, to provide further support for businesses. The scheme enables businesses to take out new loans and overdrafts of up to £500,000, with 80% of the total amount provided to be underwritten by the States of Guernsey.
The Committee for Health and Social Care announced, on 19 March, its plans for the island's only hospital—the Princess Elizabeth Hospital (PEH)—to respond to the development of the spread of COVID-19 on the island. Measures taken include the suspension of elective surgery from 23 March, training staff to "increase resilience in the provision of critical care", and limiting in-patients to one visitor at a time. On 23 March the States of Guernsey made the decision to close the hospital to visitors with exceptions for people in end of life care and occupants of the maternity and children's wards. In order to combat the pandemic, agency nurses due to return to the UK stayed in Guernsey to work the hopsital.
On 27 March, the hospital's Day Care Unit completed its two-week conversion into an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in preparation for accommodation potential coronavirus patients. It was also reported that Guernsey "started with more intensive care beds than the UK per head of population" and was "already in a good position for ventilators". On 27 March, the hospital adopted a new streaming system, whereby patients entering the Emergency Department must first meet with a streaming nurse who will question the patient about their travel history, self-isolation and possible contact with COVID-19-positive patients. Once assessed, the patient is sent to either Red Zone 1 if they have COVID-19 symptoms or have had contact with a positive patient, or to Yellow Zone 2 if they are symptom free. All nurses and staff in the dedicated unit are required to wear protective equipment.
On 30 March, the Medical Director of Health and Social Care, Dr Peter Rabey, gave assurances that the Princess Elizabeth Hopsital was "well prepared" for an increase in patients suffering from COVID-19 and said that Guernsey has more ventilators per head of population than the UK. On 31 March, it was announced that patients going to the hospital presenting symptoms related to COVID-19 would not have to pay for a check-up nor pay for their treatment. On 2 April, it was announced that the Chest and Heart unit at the hopsital would, from the next day, function as the designated doctors' surgery for anyone instructed to book an appointment after phoning their local surgery and presenting symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection.
As of 2 April, there are 2 patients with COVID-19 being treated at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital; none are currently in intensive care or require ventilatory support. The States of Guernsey have predicted that between 8–15% of all COVID-19 cases will require hospital care.
Many members of the public have resorted to panic buying at supermarkets and food stores across the Bailiwick, resulting in long queues and shortages of toilet paper, pasta and fresh produce. The Bailiwick Express reported signs informing customers that they were limited to purchasing three of any essential products, security guards place in aisles and tape enforcing social distancing at tills. Addressing the public's panicked response, on 22 March the States of Guernsey gave assurances that the island has "no current issues with the supply of essential goods" and implored people to remain considerate of others and stop panic buying, telling those who continue to do so "to just get a grip and not be so selfish".
The States of Guernsey issued a statement requesting people stop stockpiling medicine following a surge in people buying painkillers and other medicine in bulk and reports of people pressuring pharmacists to dispense prescriptions in advance. The States warned that stockpiling was putting unnecessary pressure on the supply chain and that there were otherwise no concerns about shortages or supply to the island.
On 2 April, Guernsey Electricity reported a 10% reduction in energy usage since the lockdown imposed on 25 March, describing the drop as 'remarkable' and citing the closure of businesses as well as an increase in temperatures as likely causes.
On 20 March the States of Guernsey imposed restrictions on all bars, clubs and premises licensed to serve alcohol stipulating that all nightclubs and bars which do not serve hot food must close, and alcohol may only be served to seated customers at pubs and restaurants if it is ancillary to prepared or plated food. Deputy Gavin St Pier also urged both customers and licensees to respect the spirit, not the letter of the law, and not to look for ways around the restriction, advising those tempted to "Think again. Watch Netflix and get a takeaway".
Restaurants and premises serving food as well as local gyms remained open for business but were subject to strict regulations ensuring customers are able to physically distance themselves from one another. On 23 March, Liberation Group—which owns a number of pubs, bars and restaurants in Guernsey—made the decision to close all of its sites. On 29 March, following a clarification of the strict lockdown measures implemented four days prior, all restaurants, cafes and kiosks—many of which had made arrangements to provide food delivery services in order to stay open through the lockdown—were ordered to shut.
On 31 March, Sandpiper CI—Guernsey's largest retailer—announced that its purchase of the Guernsey Pub Company, owners of Randalls Brewery, had fallen through due to the impact of the pandemic, with the sale and purchase agreement terminating on 1 April.
On 11 March it was announced that Guernsey Harbours had cancelled the arrival of a cruise ship scheduled to arrive on 20 March as a precautionary measure. Subsequently, on 19 March individual operators cancelled all cruise trips until the start of may, including nine scheduled to visit the island in April and three in May. On 21 March it was announced that, following directives from the States of Guernsey, no boats are permitted to land on Herm from outside the Bailiwick until at least the end of April. On 23 March Sark Shipping suspended all passenger boats to the island. All Sark residents were repatriated by 30 March, from which date three freight-only services would be the only travel to the island.
On 18 March, local airline Blue Islands offered citizens repatriation flights before the islands passed the isolation deadline; two days later, on 20 March, the airline announced it was stopping all flights out of Guernsey due to lack of demand. On 19 March, local airline Aurigny announced changes to its scheduling which included a reduction in services between some destinations and a suspension of other routes entirely, initially planned to run until 19 April. The airline said the aim of the reduced schedule was to "reduce costs in this unprecedented period of low demand" and said they hoped to return to their regular schedule for summer. On 25 March, Aurigny announced a severely reduced schedule to operate until 31 May, running only one flight a day to and from Gatwick and Southampton. The flights are available only to customers with an essential reason for travelling.
On 1 April, it was confirmed that 1,100 people had enquired about the States of Guernsey hardship fund, which will be administered as a social security for those in need who do not qualify otherwise for income support or sickness benefit.
On 2 April, it was announced that Guernsey-based company Specsavers—the largest private employer in the Bailiwick—was anticipating cuts of 5% to company staff due to the significant impact of the pandemic on the company's sales and revenue, resulting in around 20 redundancies on the island.
On 19 March, Public Health announced that all schools in the Bailiwick will be closed from 23 March until at least the end of the Easter break, with the intention to re-open once on-island testing is introduced. The States of Guernsey also published advice to students studying in the UK or abroad to return to the island, in light of many institutions closing due to the pandemic, asking in a statement on 17 March that students consider coming home "sooner rather than later, even if this requires a period of self-isolation".
On 22 March, the States of Guernsey announced that children whose parents are both categorised as critical workers (or if one parent is a nurse, doctor, other key health or care worker, teaching staff, or staff essential to supporting the States of Guernsey's response) will be allowed to return to school until scheduled Easter holidays begin, but must continue to observe social distancing measures. Gavin St Pier, head of the Civil Contingencies Authority, said that they predict these measures will see between 10% and 15% of children continuing to attend schools during the temporary stoppage of education. On 1 April, it was announced that schools would stay open during the Easter holidays for children of critical workers, as well as children and young people with special educational needs.
On 19 March it was announced that BBC Radio Guernsey would be hosting, as one of the BBC's Local Radio stations, wireless congregations every Sunday between 08:00 and 08:30 in response to churches across the island being closed to indoor public gatherings.
Following government advice on social distancing and limiting contact with others, a number of local cultural and sporting events have been cancelled or postponed including the Guernsey Marathon, the Muratti Vase semi-final, a number of Guernsey F.C. matches, Liberation Day celebrations and the Guernsey Literary festival.
The Guernsey Raiders led the London & South East Premier when the division was ended prematurely due to the pandemic; despite the season not running its full course, Raiders were granted promotion to National League 2 South for the following season.
On 23 March the Royal Court issued several changes to its procedures in response to the pandemic to allow for social distancing measures. A 'basic provision' of marriage services will still be provided, but staffing will be halved along with closures of the petty debts court, access to the strongroom and limits on people attending the contracts court.
Airtel-Vodafone announced on 20 March that it had increased customers' data allowance to 50GB for an initial one-month period to support those working from home during the pandemic. Sure also announced it would be offering free upgrades to customers' broadband speeds lasting until July.
The figures below count only confirmed cases from tests; the actual number of infections and cases are likely to be higher than reported.
Last updated 16:12 2 April 2020. Data sourced from the States of Guernsey website.
|⋮||No new cases|
Last updated 16:12 2 April 2020. Data sourced from the States of Guernsey website.
Last updated 16:12 2 April 2020. Data sourced from the States of Guernsey website.