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Guernsey's exit from lockdown "too cautious"

Guernsey's exit from lockdown

Thursday 21 May 2020

Guernsey's exit from lockdown "too cautious"


Guernsey will "pay the price" economically for its cautious release from lockdown, a long-serving Deputy has warned the States, as he failed in his bid to have a wider political body take charge of the exit strategy.

Deputy Mark Dorey questioned the emergency powers granted to Health & Social Care, saying they had led to shifting policy based solely on public health outcomes at the expense of economic, physical, mental health and environmental considerations.

The Castel Deputy wanted the States to confer those powers on a committee with wider political membership; with a representative from every principal States committee receiving advice from fiscal, social and economic officials in addition to medical directors.

However, his amendment was unsuccessful by 16 votes to 23. 

Deputy Dorey made comparisons between Guernsey and Iceland, which have had a similar number of positive tests per capita, a similar number of deaths, introduced lockdown measures at a similar time and currently have a minimal number of positive cases, with two in Guernsey and three currently in Iceland. 

The key difference was that on 4 May Iceland approved gatherings of up to 50 people, shops to reopen with customers and schoolchildren to return without social distancing.

"I believe Iceland is an excellent example of a country which has controlled Covid-19 with very extensive testing and has released lockdown to allow economic activity without an increase in cases," he said. 

"I fully accept that every jurisdiction is different but I think it is a good example."

"At various press briefings we have repeatedly been told that the release from lockdown has been based on a very cautious approach to minimise any risk. I fully understand HSC making those decisions but I believe Guernsey will pay a high price for that very cautious approach. 

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Pictured: Deputy Dorey said there has not been enough focus on the business impact of the island's lockdown strategy.

"I currently do not understand when we have had no community seeding since 21 April, when the last new case was 20 days ago, and we only have two active cases, why we are not where Iceland was on 4 May in releasing all of lockdown apart from our borders.

"I do not understand why we allow commercial kitchens to operate for takeaways, we allow people to work inside offices, but we don’t allow people to eat inside at restaurants or al fresco dining outside restaurants.

"I was surprised when the phase three proposals were announced at the end of last week, because I expected all non-essential retail to be able to trade with restrictions, but only bicycle shops, sport shops, sale of clothes and shoes, kitchens, and garden centres were allowed."

He said he was yet to hear any "justifiable explanation" for this from Guernsey's authorities. 

"I do not believe that a balanced committee that considered the health, economics, physical, social and environmental matters would have made such a decision to only allow so few non-essential retailers to trade at this point in time. 

"The only conclusion I can reach is that the very cautious HSC with its health mandate has not balanced the benefits for our economy, the States’ finances, the benefits for people’s mental health and to people’s jobs and livelihoods in those jobs and industries which are not able to trade, and also to give people the freedom in our community."

Pictured: The voting on Deputy Dorey's amendment.

Deputy Dorey believed it was time for a committee with wider membership to take over from where HSC kicked off, with that committee having shifted the goalposts several times since lockdown commenced. 

"There seems to have been a change in policy during lockdown to flatten the curve, then to squash the curve and now it is to eliminate the virus. But we have had no explanation of the implications of the change in policy on the economic, physical, social and environment effects on the island. I think a more balanced committee would be able to consider these effects and weigh up the pros and cons."

Responding to those comments, HSC President Heidi Soulsby said it was necessary to be cautious because of the possibility of a second wave of the virus, which has already swept over some countries and remains a risk for jurisdictions across the world.

"The possibility of a second wave are absolutely out there, and that’s why we need to be really careful here," she said. 

"It could be an economic disaster if we don’t keep things on track and continue what we have been doing so far."

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Pictured: Deputy Soulsby said her committee had been "living and breathing" the island's lockdown policy over the last couple of months. 

Deputy Soulsby said those responsible for making emergency powers so far have "been living and breathing this over the last couple of months", whereas any new politicians joining the fold would be lacking that "accumulated knowledge and experience".

The idea of a wider States committee was ultimately rejected after several hours of debate. 

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Comments

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Posted by Jayne Thomas on
Now that there are no more cases reported, the island's economy should be 'kick-started' before there are more job losses, lack of confidence to spend other than on essentials and cost to the islands exchequer. They have done a wonderful job. Now its time to crack on!
Posted by Oz Osborne on
Deputy Dorey is absolutely correct . Heidi solesby ,keeps on about a second wave of covid 19, why. There’s been nothing in the community ,since 21 st of April , even if people were asyptomtomatic, you would of thought ,the virus would have raised its ugly head up by now , this lockdown now ,should end . No phases , no need , over cautious to the extreme.
Posted by Dave Vowles on
Having achieved so much in the last ten weeks it would be stupid to put it all at risk
4/6 weeks more commitment from us should be enough to see us through
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