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STAC Wasn't Consulted On Christmas Gatherings

It's been revealed that Ministers didn't seek medical advice before announcing their original Covid Christmas guidance.

That's emerged from newly-published minutes from STAC meetings.

In the lead up to Christmas, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell members had considered a number of potential festive restrictions - including capping the number of people islanders were in contact with.

Whilst that advice was followed, the documents also show Ministers hadn't consulted advisors before unveiling initial plans to allow three large gatherings over Christmas.

The government also deviated from STAC's recommendations by allowing church services, as well as in-person visits to care home residents, or anyone receiving end-of-life care.

One of the experts even questioned the role of the group if Ministers weren't going to consider its advice.

The Government’s Director of Strategy said, as Ministers didn't need to consult STAC before making a decision, the group's views are 'welcomed'.

Rules on Christmas get-togethers were later changed so that people could only meet indoors on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

A states issued today by the Chief Minister says:

"The role of STAC is fundamental to the island’s response to COVID, and the advice and information it provides is carefully considered by Ministers, who weigh up its advice alongside the potential impact of any proposed measures on the community. However, sometimes speed is necessary when responding to a pandemic, and it may not be possible to arrange an extra meeting. Representatives from STAC attend meetings of the Competent Authority Ministers to provide information and take part in discussions."

The latest STAC minutes to be published cover the period 12 October to 22 December.

In that time, the cell met 15 times.  There is no record of any meeting between 7 September and 12 October.

Minutes were previously published on 18 December covering the period 27 July - 7 September and revealed experts wish for the wearing of masks was expressed two months before it became law.

Scrutiny has been pressuring the government for timely publication of the minutes since Deputy Kevin Pamplin won a States vote last summer demanding they be made available.

The latest release of minutes also reveal that Senators Ian Gorst and Lyndon Farnham wrote to the Health Minister asking that STAC consider the partially-reopening of hospitality in mid-December with restrictions such as keeping pubs closed, banning the sale of alcohol or only serving drinks with a 'substantial meal'.

STAC advice was to the contrary though.  It called for an extension to hospitality closures to include cafes.

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