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Omicron variant forces tighter rules on masks and travel

Omicron variant forces tighter rules on masks and travel

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Omicron variant forces tighter rules on masks and travel


The States are introducing a legal requirement to wear face masks in shops, on public transport and in some customer-facing areas of States' buildings.

And anyone entering the Bailiwick - even if they are fully vaccinated against covid-19 - will need to pay £25 for a test to detect whether they have the virus.

These new measures, announced by the Civil Contingencies Authority at a briefing on Monday evening, will be introduced at 00:01 on Wednesday. 

The Authority said it was acting "in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant of covid-19 which continues to present uncertainty around its transmissibility, risk of reinfection, and whether it means the current vaccines are any less effective".

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Pictured: The panel at last night's covid-19 briefing at Candie (l to r): Nick Hynes, Director of Education; Deputy Peter Ferbrache, Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority; and Dr Nicola Brink, Director of Public Health. 

Dr Nicola Brink, Director of Public Health, said that the States' Analytical Laboratory had already stepped up analysis of positive samples of covid-19 in an effort to identify any local cases of the Omicron variant. No cases have been found yet. However, there are now multiple cases in the UK, including some with no recent travel history, and many scientists are expecting numbers to grow substantially in the coming days. 

The Authority also announced tighter restrictions on close contacts of positive cases if Omicron is found in the island. It said that anyone who is a close contact of a confirmed or suspected case of the Omicron variant would be legally required to isolate for 10 days regardless of their age or vaccination status. 

"We are very closely monitoring the new information on the Omicron variant, including where it has been detected," said Dr Brink. "The UK, who we work closely with, are a world leader in sequencing and that gives us good visibility, alongside our own on-island sequencing capability.

"So we can and should take a cautious but proportionate approach for the moment while we learn more about the transmissibility and spectrum of symptoms caused by the Omicron variant.

"While there are some new requirements coming in, the guidance we have promoted recently still applies. Use a face covering wherever you can’t socially distance or there’s poor ventilation and test regularly with lateral flows.

"Most of all we must all stay at home if we are unwell and report our symptoms to the clinical helpline. Do not assume that a negative lateral flow result means you can go back out into the community if you are symptomatic. You must still stay at home and report those symptoms so we can arrange a PCR test.

"And, importantly get vaccinated and boosted."

The Civil Contingencies Authority will today finalise emergency regulations which will allow the authorities legally to enforce the wearing of masks in shops, on public transport and in some States' buildings.

high street

Pictured: From tomorrow, shoppers in the High Street and elsewhere will be legally required to wear face coverings in shops. 

The Authority said it had been careful not to extend the mandatory use of face coverings to businesses where doing so would have prevented the business from operating. 

"The intention is to reduce the number of transmissions wherever it is reasonably practical to do so without impacting the lives and livelihoods of islanders," said the Authority.

Deputy Peter Ferbrache, Chairman of the Authority, said the additional measures would remain in place for the shortest time possible but that they were necessary while uncertainty remained about the risks of the Omicron variant. He said the Authority had looked at evidence and discussed its options "long and hard over the weekend".

"We need to recognise the uncertainty that the Omicron variant brings and the measures that we are introducing are precautionary and reflect the uncertainty of the current situation," said Deputy Ferbrache.

"We’re not seeking to overreact either. We want people to continue to be able to live, work, attend school and enjoy the festive period with as little unnecessary disruption as possible, mindful that we do have a highly-vaccinated community and this is not a repeat of what we faced when the very first cases of COVID-19 were emerging around the world.

"I hope the measures we’re announcing today are temporary measures that can soon be lifted again, but they may not be. We will need to see what new information emerges on the Omicron variant."

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Pictured: The States' decision to charge everyone arriving in the Bailiwick £25 for a covid test drew immediate criticism on social media, but the Civil Contingencies Authority defended it as a reasonable cost for travellers to incur when the pandemic has already cost taxpayers millions of pounds. 

Deputy Ferbrache said that changes to travel requirements announced by the Authority recognised that "travel in general continues to carry a real element of risk".

Fully vaccinated arrivals who have been to a non-Common Travel Area (CTA) country in the 10 days before their journey to the Bailiwick will need to complete a PCR test on arrival and isolate until they receive a negative result. The tests will cost £25. 

Arrivals who have been only to the Common Travel Area will be required to purchase a pack of lateral flow tests on arrival and complete the course of tests over the following 10 days. The pack will cost £25. 

Deputy Ferbrache defended passing this charge onto the individual taking the tests. He said that covid-19 had been extremely expensive to the States and taxpayers and that making the tests available to passengers free of charge even for a few weeks would cost more than £100,000.

Travel requirements for arrivals from outside the CTA who are not fully vaccinated will not change. These travellers currently need to complete a PCR test on their day of arrival and on day eight and isolate until they receive a negative result for the day eight test.

Travel requirements for those arriving from red list countries are also unchanged. These arrivals, regardless of vaccination status, must complete a test on arrival and a test on day nine and isolate until they receive a negative result on the day nine test. This is on the basis that they have not travelled to the Bailiwick via the UK as red list arrivals travelling via the UK must complete 10 days in a UK quarantine hotel before they are permitted to travel to the Bailiwick.

Before the new requirements come into effect on Wednesday, passengers on services from outside the CTA, such as ferries or flights coming directly from Europe, are requested to take PCR tests on arrival.

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