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Elimination Strategy Suggestion Rejected

STAC is refusing to support a proposal to move to a coronavirus elimination strategy.

Whilst calling the overall idea 'attractive', Dr. Patrick Armstrong says there are areas of practical, ethical, moral, and political concern.

Senators Kristina Moore and Steve Pallett and Deputy Steve Luce put forward the suggestion, which if backed, would have led to a strategy by which Jersey would use control measures to try and stop any new Covid cases.

That's understood to have included having everyone here tested.

But Dr. Armstrong says because there would be a need to keep essential services running, there would never be a situation where islanders don't mix and there will always be a risk of transmission.

On the subject of testing, the chair of STAC says they would never be 100% accurate which would risk some transmission - and raised questions over how everyone would be tested, if you'd test young children, and what you'd do if someone refuses a test.

He also pointed to Guernsey as a reason for not changing strategy - saying while they have successfully eliminated the virus for a long period of time, some movement through the borders inevitably leads to the virus getting in and spreading - and in that scenario, the only option is 'a full and damaging lockdown situation'.

Guernsey is now in lockdown after coming across four cases where the cause of infection couldn't be identified. More than 30 other cases have been found in the island over the weekend.

Dr. Armstrong says it would 'therefore seem more logical to try and reach a point of steady-state with the virus' in Jersey.

"Accepting that there is likely to continue to be some viral spread but maintaining enough measures to allow as much of the economy and normal life to continue as is possible whilst we move to a position through vaccination where the virus is no longer such a threat. Once we reach a stage where everyone over the age of 50 has been vaccinated then we have covered 99% of the population who are at risk of serious illness or death.

"Since our current projection is to reach that point over the next 8 weeks, approximately, it would seem more sensible to continue with our current strategy rather than suddenly change direction to something, that as far as we are aware, has not been proven to work in another jurisdiction over the medium and longer term.

"As is always the case with any conversation relating to COVID there are many complexities that are difficult to articulate in a letter so as usual I am very happy to have further conversations and to listen to your further thoughts.

"There was a view in STAC that if numbers were very high then this approach in some form might be a way to bring numbers down again more rapidly but given the low levels that we are currently seeing we feel our current test and tracing approach remains the most appropriate way forward.

"We do recognise that as the number of people who have been vaccinated increases then we are going to have to reconsider our testing strategy moving forward and these conversations have already started. This type of test may be an option given its greater convenience and reduced discomfort and is of course being considered. I am aware that there are a number of commercially available similar tests which will go through the appropriate procurement process if their use is adopted more widely."

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