Coronavirus: why Jersey should take a tougher stance

The images of Boris Johnson flanked by Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, declaring that the UK government was following the science, was very uncomfortable. The impression given was that there was only one approach, one truth, being science.

The reality is that much of this “science” is simply opinion, and in respect of modelling, depends upon the programme and the particular information and assumptions that have been put into the computer. As the World Health Organization stated in one interview, the science is interesting but we need to look at what is actually happening. I hope that it will not come to this, but there is the prospect of this trio falling into the 1987 Michael Fish hall of fame that there was no hurricane coming.

We have seen progress made against the virus in China, South Korea, and some impressive efforts to contain the virus in other countries such as in Singapore and, of course, the gravity of the situation in Italy is heartbreaking.  In the face of this, the UK approach has been bewildering. The suggestion in this article is simply that the Channel Islands are small island communities and are in a different position from the UK and should take a different, more robust approach including enforcing restricted travel in and out. We do not have to repeat the errors of the UK.

Currently we cannot test sufficient numbers quickly and are fighting something that has the advantage of several days’ march on us with people and places infected before we can find out. It is still unclear if testing can be transferred to the Channel Islands and carried out in large enough numbers but it would be a dramatic step forwards if this could happen.

As small island communities with a good handle on who comes into them and what happens in our islands, not least with the parish network, we are, however, in a position to enforce what is currently merely advisory. Mere “advice” against anything but essential travel and for self-isolation has been shown to be inadequate in the UK. In addition, because it is not difficult to do, checking the new arrival card details provided at entry points, and taking the temperatures of those coming in, are further reasonable precautionary measures.

Even if the virus can be brought under control, or even eradicated in the Channel Islands, a vaccine is potentially a year away and there remains a risk of reinfection without enforced controls being in place. We might as well get on with those controls now and in the hope that a scientific or medical breakthrough comes as the world focusses upon a solution. Any time gained in delaying the spread of the virus is worthwhile.

Advocate Timothy Hanson