500K Covid Pandemic Inquiry Findings After Election

A deadline of 29 July 2022 has been set to publish the findings of a £500,000 independent review into the island's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Constable Mike Jackson wanted a rapid, short, bespoke inquiry so urgent lessons can be learned and applied before the election.

He suggested a deadline of the end of April to give recommendations and guidance for how to manage future pandemics or similarly disruptive events.

"There is no intention that this should be any sort of political witch-hunt. It's aimed purely and simply towards the continued wellbeing of the people of Jersey, many of whom have suffered in so many different ways over the last two years.

Yes, we have Christmas and holidays coming up with people being on leave, but the identification and appointment of a high-calibre individual can be made rapidly to enable terms of reference to be agreed and panel appointments to be made in early January.

A list of very credible potential panelists can be made available to PPC and the Council of Ministers within hours of this States Assembly approval to proceed.

There is every confidence that given the political will to proceed at pace, a very effective inquiry panel can be set up and running by mid-January and complete its investigations to the standard and level by the end of March 2022, with a report published by the end of April."

But the government won a vote for the deadline to move to 29 July.

Ministers said the review shouldn't be unduly rushed and have the quality of findings compromised.

Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondre said the priority is still on managing the pandemic.

"If we genuinely thought we could deliver the objectives of the Connetable by 30 April, with an independent chair, without putting pressure on the teams that we have, we would do so, there is no question.

"But the advice we've taken, the consideration we've given, has suggested that a date of 29 July, which gets us clear of the elections, has it ready for the new Council of Ministers almost as soon as they're on office, is the most appropriate date to go for."

On Constable Jackson's plea to proceed at pace, the Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf said the chair of this review should be wholly independent, and the task of finding that person must not be rushed.

"It's got to be open to everybody who might wish to express an interest, it's got to be open to those persons to understand what it is they're being asked to do, to assimilate a task, and then to put in their interest, and then there must be a proper consideration of the candidates who are expressing interest.

There is no need to rush this. We are at risk if we rush it, we're at risk of something that would be an outcome which is less than helpful.

Let's do this well. I support it, I would want to give evidence to it, and I would want to learn lessons because there are plenty to be learned, but let's make sure that we can do it in a comprehensive, valuable way."

Many States members said that islanders deserved to have the findings published before the election, so they have the information on hand in order to cast their votes.

Deputy Kirsten Morel said the government started 'from a shockingly bad position of preparedness' which needs to be known about, while Constable Andy Jehan said the review should happen as quickly and effectively as possible, and questioned the evidence behind the decision to extend it by three months.

Senator Ian Gorst argued that doing by the end of April would not be practical.

"The same people that would have to support that piece of work are the very people that are working on the ongoing pandemic.

We are kidding ourselves if we think it can be done (by the end of April) or if we think it's more important that those officials spend their time serving this review rather than serving islanders in the way that they've done through the pandemic.

As much as I'd like to support the Constable's timing, I can't. I would be being disingenuous if I did.

I will continue to put islanders' health first by supporting this amendment (to set the deadline of 29 July)."

The amendment to set the deadline of 29 July, instead of the end of April, was supported by 41 votes to three.

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