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"Enjoy the opportunity to be together - you have earned it"

Friday 25 December 2020

"Enjoy the opportunity to be together - you have earned it"


"It takes much more than scientists and doctors to successfully combat a pandemic - it takes the whole community," Dr Nicola Brink has told Express in a Christmas 'thank you' to the Bailiwick.

"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment as we reach the end of an extraordinary year for our community, for the world, and for me and my colleagues in Public Health Services.

In some ways it feels like much more than a year ago that we started to see information emerge about a new or novel coronavirus. As we sat in our offices during the cold January and February months, we became increasingly concerned that this virus had pandemic potential.

We had, however, prepared for a pandemic. Towards the end of 2019, with the politicians and officers from the States of Guernsey, Primary and Secondary Care providers and other responders, we had conducted an Influenza Pandemic Table-Top Exercise. From our perspective it was not a case of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’, the next pandemic would happen. Little did we know that it was just around the corner.

At the time of the table-top exercise we also recognised that the next pandemic may not be caused by an influenza virus, but could the result of another novel respiratory virus. And this was the case with the current pandemic being caused by a novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2 which causes the disease COVID-19.

In March of this year we saw the first case of COVID-19 in Guernsey. Our preparations served us well – we were ready and waiting for the first case when this occurred. In the first wave we saw 252 cases of COVID-19 and, sadly, 16 deaths. And as we approach Christmas my thoughts of with all those families who lost their loved ones as a result of COVID-19.

Lockdown helped get us to where we are now. We are in the enviable position of having no evidence of community transmission of the virus at the time of writing this. The spirit of #GuernseyTogether and, indeed Guernsey, Alderney Sark and Herm all working together, has enabled us to reach this very favourable position. This team approach has be a hallmark of our COVID-19 response.

The Public Health Team, together with the wider Health and Social Care Team, have truly gone above and beyond what anyone could ask of them. We’re very aware that it takes much more than scientists and doctors to successfully combat a pandemic. It takes the whole community. It takes politicians willing to make swift, difficult decisions. It takes businesses who can find ways of working in ever-changing circumstances.

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Pictured: Dr Brink sat down with Express earlier this year to talk about her background, her interests and her life before Guernsey. 

It takes all areas of government to work together to introduce a lockdown, manage border restrictions, provide business support and all the while clearly communicating every twist and turn to the community so they know what’s happening, when and why. And mostly, it takes every individual to recognise that their actions will determine if the virus continues to spread or not.

I knew at the outset of the pandemic what it would take to bring the virus under control. But I couldn’t have imagined how quickly and effectively all of the Bailiwick would come together to deliver one of the best community responses of anywhere in the world.

I am very proud of my Island home and for everything that has been achieved this year. I am also very grateful and humbled by the incredible support that my colleagues and I have received from Islanders. It has been so encouraging as we faced some of the most difficult challenges in our careers.

It isn’t over yet, and we must continue to follow the rules, particularly in relation to travel and self-isolation. We must also learn the good practice that has become part of our lives this year: respecting each other’s personal space, good hand hygiene, staying at home if you’re unwell and reporting any COVID-19 symptoms. This will help us stay healthier for years to come.

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Pictured: The Director of Public Health offers advice to the Civil Contingencies Authority about their political decisions in response to the pandemic. 

But there is light at the end of the tunnel now, with the vaccine programme now underway locally. After a long year we are now at the beginning of the end of this pandemic. Today, as I sit in the satellite Vaccine Centre at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital surrounded by nurses, midwives and paramedics delivering the first doses of vaccine to islanders, I am truly in awe of the selfless community spirit and dedication that our health and care workers have shown. They are here quietly working to vaccinate our population enabling us to look toward 2021 with real hope and optimism.

My one final thought for this year is that this pandemic has brought Public Health, virology, medicine and science into people’s lives. I hope going forward younger islanders will consider studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, and that these skills can be used to enrich our island community in years to come.

But over the festive season the only thing we really need to think about is being with our friends and family, enjoying the opportunity to be together. It’s something we’ve all earned. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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