2020 coronavirus pandemic in Guernsey

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in the Bailiwick of Guernsey
Bailiwick of Guernsey coronavirus map.svg
Map of confirmed cases per island as of 8 April 2020
  100–199 confirmed cases
  50–99 confirmed cases
  10–49 confirmed cases
  1–9 confirmed cases
  No confirmed cases or no data
Bailiwick of Guernsey coronavirus deaths map.svg
Map of deaths per island as of 7 April 2020
  1–4 deaths
  No deaths or no data
DiseaseCoronavirus disease 2019
(COVID-19)
Virus strainSevere acute respiratory
syndrome coronavirus 2

(SARS-CoV-2)
LocationBailiwick of Guernsey
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseImported from Tenerife, Spain
Arrival date9 March 2020
(1 month ago)
Confirmed cases181[1][2]
Recovered38[2]
Deaths
5[note 1][2]
Official website
covid19.gov.gg

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the Bailiwick of Guernsey is part of an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a novel infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case in the Bailiwick was confirmed on 9 March when a person tested positive in Guernsey after returning from Tenerife,[3] and transmission within the Bailiwick was confirmed on 24 March.[4] As of 8 April, there have been 181 cases identified in the Bailiwick—all on the island of Guernsey—and 5 people are confirmed to have died from the infection;[note 2] no cases have been reported in Sark, Herm or Alderney.[2]

The response by the States of Guernsey has been led by the Civil Contingencies Authority (CCA)—a senior cross-committee body responsible for coordinating actions in circumstances which present a serious risk to the health and welfare of the island—chaired by Gavin St Pier and advised by the senior Policy and Resources Committee (P&R) and the Committee for Health and Social Care (HSC). St Pier—Guernsey's Chief Minister—has compared the threat to public health from the pandemic and the restriction of personal liberties as a result of the government-imposed lockdown measures in the Bailiwick to that seen during the second world war.[5][6]

Early response measures focused on behaviour changing publicity; encouraging hand-washing, respiratory hygiene and social distancing measures, and advising against non-essential travel. Following the first confirmed case in the Bailiwick, the CCA enacted the Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations 2020 on 17 March, a statutory instrument which enables the Medical Officer of Health to implement emergency measures enforceable by law; the first of which mandated that anyone arriving in the Bailiwick self-isolate for 14 days. Following the first confirmed case from on-island transmission, the CCA announced an immediate 'lockdown' starting from midnight on 25 March, comprising wide-ranging restrictions on freedom of movement, enforceable in law, whereby people have been ordered to stay at home and 'non-essential' businesses have been ordered to close. Several further emergency regulations have been enacted by the CCA to address the various challenges presented by the pandemic.

The pandemic has led to socio-economic disruption, the cancellation or postponement of sporting and cultural events, the closure of schools and colleges except for vulnerable children and children of critical workers, restrictions on travel (both within and to and from the Bailiwick), and fears of supply shortages have resulted in panic buying. The disruption to local business activities has resulted in closures and redundancies, though several schemes have been implemented by local banks and the States of Guernsey to provide financial support to businesses and individuals in order to limit the damage caused to the local economy.[7][8]

Testing was initially conducted by specialist laboratories in the UK, with no facilities available in the Bailiwick.[9] Following rapid development, Guernsey's own testing facility became operational on 30 March, delivering results within 24 hours and prompting the adoption of a broader community testing programme.[10] As of 8 April, 1,287 samples have been tested, yielding 181 positive results and 1084 negative results with 22 results yet to be confirmed. 38 patients have recovered.[2]

Background[edit]

A new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in late December 2019 as the cause of a cluster of cases of an acute respiratory disease now referred to as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).[11] As of March 2020 more than 170 countries and territories have been affected, with major outbreaks in China, Italy, South Korea and Iran.[12][13] On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterised the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic.[14][15]

Timeline of cases[edit]

COVID-19 cases in the Bailiwick of Guernsey  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
Date
# of cases
# of deaths
2020-03-09
1(n.a.)
1(=)
2020-03-20
2(+100%)
2020-03-21
17(+750%)
2020-03-22
20(+18%)
20(=)
2020-03-24
23(+15%)
2020-03-25
30(+30%)
2020-03-26
34(+13%)
2020-03-27
36(+6%)
2020-03-28
39(+8%)
2020-03-29
45(+15%)
2020-03-30
60(+33%)
2020-03-31
78(+30%) 1(n.a.)
2020-04-01
91(+17%) 1(=)
2020-04-02
97(+7%) 1(=)
2020-04-03
114(+18%) 2(+100%)
2020-04-04
136(+19%) 2(=)
2020-04-05
154(+13%) 3(+50%)
2020-04-06
165(+7%) 4(+33%)
2020-04-07
166(+1%) 4(=)
2020-04-08
181(+9%) 5(+25%)
2020-04-09
191(+6%) 5(=)
Data sourced from the States of Guernsey website.
Last updated 9 April 2020.

February[edit]

  • On 23 February, it was reported that 12 local patients had been tested for the coronavirus with all results returning negative.[16]
  • On 25 February, a group of children at a local school were sent home to self-isolate after returning from a ski trip to northern Italy; one symptomatic student was tested but the result came back negative.[17][18]

March[edit]

  • On 9 March, the first confirmed case was identified. The person had contracted the virus on holiday in Tenerife before returning home.[19] The patient sought help promptly, and their family was placed in compulsory quarantine at home.[3]
  • On 12 March, Chief Minister Gavin St Pier described the pandemic as "the most significant public health challenge since the end of the second world war".[5]
  • On 20 March, a second case of coronavirus was confirmed in Guernsey—eleven days after the first. The patient had returned from France before immediately entering a compulsory 14-day period of self-isolation during when they became symptomatic.[20][21]
  • On 21 March, fifteen new cases were confirmed in the space of 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 17. All cases were considered imported cases, each with a clear documented travel history, meaning no evidence of transmission within the Bailiwick.[22] Each of the fifteen new patients suffered the relevant symptoms on their return and self-isolated as soon as they became symptomatic.[9]
  • On 22 March, three further cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20. The cases were also determined to be imported cases and not transmitted locally. In addition, the States of Guernsey identified four clusters among ten cases; three groups were on separate ski trips to France and one group was on a ski trip in Austria and Germany. It was also announced that around 1000 people were in compulsory self-isolation, about 1.5% of the local population.[2][23]
  • On 23 March, no new cases were confirmed, and the States of Guernsey reaffirmed that a lockdown in the Bailiwick was not yet appropriate, warning of the likely economic and psychological consequences of such measures, and repeated the request for people to observe social distancing measures and practice good hygiene.[24]
  • On 24 March, three more cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 23; one of the three cases was confirmed to have been transmitted within the Bailiwick. At 7pm, the States of Guernsey announced in a live broadcast that a 'lockdown' period would begin from 00:01 on 25 March for two weeks during which restrictions would be placed on people's freedom of movement, enforceable by law.[4][25][26]
  • On 25 March, seven new cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 30. Public Health also confirmed that it had tested 31 hospital in-patients suffering respiratory symptoms with all returning negative.[27]
  • On 26 March, four further cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 34; three of which were identified as locally transmitted.[28] On the same day, the first death as a result of the coronavirus in the Channel Islands was confirmed after a patient died in Jersey. The patient was in their 80s and had underlying health conditions.[29]
  • On 27 March, two more cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 36. It was also reported that one individual who did not self-isolate, despite showing symptoms, had tested positive and generated 73 contacts requiring tracing (compared to the average of around 20). 1,439 islanders were estimated to be in compulsory self-islation; around 2.2% of the island's population.[30] The hospital completed the conversion of its Day Care Unit into an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), ready to accommodate new COVID-19 patients.[31]
  • On 28 March, three more cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 39.[32]
  • On 29 March, six further cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 45. The Channel Islands also saw its second death from COVID-19 as a patient in their 70s died in Jersey.[33]
  • On 30 March, testing began in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, allowing results to be returned in less than 24 hours. Fifteen new cases were confirmed, including three care home residents, bringing the total number of cases to 60.[10]
  • On 31 March, the first COVID-19 related death in the Bailiwick was confirmed; the patient was 80 years old and passed away in the afternoon on the day prior.[34] Eighteen more cases were confirmed—the most in a day so far—bringing the total cases to 78. Guernsey's Lieutenant Governor, Vice Admiral Ian Corder, addressed the island at 16:00 and praised the 'discipline and stoicism' of islanders.[35][36]

April[edit]

  • On 1 April, the number of cases reach a total of 91, up thirteen from the day before—several of which were further cases at the care home where three cases had previously been identified.[37][38] A delivery of personal protection equipment (PPE) arrived and is being 'controlled carefully' due to global shortages of such equipment.[39]
  • On 2 April, six more cases were confirmed, bringing the total cases to 97.[40] A marine ambulance was sent to Sark in the early hours of the morning—the second in 24 hours—and a patient was taken to the Princess Elizabeth Hospital.[41]
  • On 3 April, it was announced that a second patient had died from the disease. Seventeen more cases were confirmed, bringing the total number to 114. It was also announced that a second care home cluster had been identified.[42] The number of recoveries was reported for the first time that day, at 13.[2]
  • On 4 April, twenty-two cases were identified along with two further recoveries, totalling 136 confirmed cases and 15 recoveries.[2]
  • On 5 April, a third death was announced. Like the first two deaths, the person was over the age of 80.[43] The number of tests taken passed 1,000 as twelve more recoveries and eighteen more confirmed cases were reported, for a total of 27 recoveries from 154 confirmed cases.[2][44]
  • On 6 April, a fourth death was announced; all four were in their 80s. Another recovery and eleven new cases were confirmed, totalling 165 confirmed cases and 28 recoveries.[45]
  • On 7 April, the lockdown period was extended for another two weeks. One more case was confirmed as well as six more recoveries.[46]
  • On 8 April, the number of confirmed cases rose by fifteen to 181, with 38 recoveries. Seven total deaths have been recorded (5 confirmed due to COVID-19 and 2 presumed).[47]

Response by the States of Guernsey[edit]

Strategy and administration[edit]

In accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for managing a pandemic, the States of Guernsey response strategy has been designed specifically for the Bailiwick and continues to adapt in line with changing numbers of cases and developing situations in other jurisdictions.[48] The underlying principle of the States of Guernsey's strategy to deal with the pandemic, as explained by Dr Nicola Brink, the Director for Public Health, is to "flatten the curve", which refers to decreasing the peak of the epidemic curve through a number of measures.[49] This slowing of the rate of infection decreases the risk of health services being overwhelmed, allows for the better treatment of current cases, and delays additional cases until a vaccine become available.[50]

The response is led by the Civil Contingencies Authority (CCA), a body made up of several committee Presidents and chaired by the head of the Policy and Resources Committee (P&R)—the island's senior politician—Gavin St Pier. The body is responsible for coordinating actions in circumstances "that present a serious risk to the health and welfare of Island residents". The CCA is advised by the Policy and Resources Committee (the States of Guernsey's senior committee), the Committee for Health and Social Care (HSC), and Public Health Services (overseen by HSC). The Coronavirus Political Executive Group was also established to include political representation from all principal States committees to make decisions on matters which do not engage the CCA.[51] On 30 March, St Pier revealed that the States were considering temporary changes to its system of government following concerns over a lack of scrutiny of decisions being made by the CCA—a body designed for "short-term emergencies"—due to the States of Deliberation not sitting as normal.[52]

The States of Guernsey first acknlowedged the emergence of a novel coronavirus, referred to as 2019-nCoV Novel Coronavirus (Wuhan Virus), on 23 January when there were 571 known cases of infection worldwide. In November 2019, the States had successfully conducted an exercise of the Channel Islands Strategic Pandemic Influenza Plan, a simulation flu pandemic exercise led by Public Health Services. The simulation exercise was promted by pandemic outbreak being moved to the top of the island's risk register following public health advice from the WHO. The States asserted in a media statement on 23 January that they were "in a good position to respond to the developing 2019-nCoV situation" and advised individuals to seek medical help immediately if they develop respiratory symptoms after returning from Wuhan to the island.[53][54]

History of response[edit]

6 February–24 March: Early measures and containment phase[edit]

States of Guernsey self-isolation advice poster, March 2020[55]

On 6 February, the States of Guernsey published information advising islanders returning from Mainland China to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in the Bailiwick "to reduce the risk of the infection being introduced to the island’s community", referencing Public Health England's self-isolation guidelines to not attend work, school or public places, to avoid visitors in your home, and to avoid using public transport or taxis.[56] A day later, the States expanded the list of 'affected areas' from which return requires self-isolation to include Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, the Republic of South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.[57] On 10 February, the States of Guernsey confirmed that seven local residents had been tested for the novel coronavirus, though asked that islanders "avoid speculation or worry".[58] On 25 February, the States of Guernsey updated their self-islation information for returning residents, defining Group A and Group B areas. Residents returning from Group A areas (Mainland China, Iran, South Korea and some parts of Italy) were required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, while those returning from Group B areas were required to self-isolate only if they had symptoms.[59]

Early advice given to the public by the States of Guernsey, forming the foundations of the 'containment' phase of the response consisted of behaviour changing publicity encouraging hand-washing for at least twenty seconds, avoiding touching your own face, and practising respiratory hygiene as well as advising social distancing and keeping at least 2 metres (6.6 ft) from others, especially those showing symptoms.[60][58] The States of Guernsey also published advice on supporting others in the community, encouraging the public to telephone elderly or vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours, offer to shop for those in self-isolation and to avoid non-essential off-island travel.[60] The Health Improvement Commission also published advice and resources with guidance on exercises to keep families healthy and active during self-isolation, recommending two 20- to 30-minute sessions per day to maintain physical and mental wellbeing. They also clarified that while individuals may go outside to exercise alone while social distancing, they should stay at home where possible.[61]

The States of Guernsey utilised technology to send mass SMS messages for the first time to provide regular updates on their response to the pandemic.

The first case in the Bailiwick was confirmed on 9 March, after which the CCA enacted the Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations 2020, coming into effect on 18 March: the first of a number of emergency powers regulations introduced in the States of Guernsey's response to the pandemic. The statutory instrument enables the Medical Officer of Health to implement emergency measures enforceable by law, the first of which mandated that anyone arriving in the Bailiwick from anywhere self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival from midnight on 19 March.[62][63] The regulations also grant law enforcement officers detain individuals whom they suspect may have the coronavirus and present a risk of spreading it to others until the Medical Officer of Health can advise further.[64] On 18 March the States utilised for the first time the databases of Sure, JT and Airtel-Vodafone to send a mass SMS message with information about self-isolation to numbers used in the Bailiwick. The technology is reserved for critical emergencies or public health threats.[65]

25 March–6 April: Lockdown and transition to delay phase[edit]

Leaflets were sent to every household in the Bailiwick setting out the strict lockdown measures imposed from 25 March.

Following the confirmation of a case resulting from on-island transmission on 24 March, the States of Guernsey announced in a live broadcast that it was implementing a 'lockdown' for an initial period of two weeks from 00:01 on 25 March, whereby restrictions would be placed on people's freedom of movement, enforceable under the statutory instrument, the Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Control of Events, Gatherings and Meetings) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations, 2020.[66][4][25][26]

The measures require people to stay at home except for shopping for basic necessities, medical requirements, two hours of exercise per day, and travelling to and from work for 'essential' jobs which 'absolutely cannot be done from home'. Other measures include the closure of all non-essential shops, businesses and community spaces, and the banning of public gatherings of more than two people (excluding people from the same household).[67] Weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies were also banned, while funerals would continue but with only immediate family permitted to attend.[68] Gavin St Pier drew comparisons with the restrictions to those imposed during the occupation of the Channel Islands during world war two, commenting "These measures introduce the most far reaching deprivation of personal liberties since the second world war".[69] On 29 March, the States of Guernsey issued detailed revisions to the lockdown measures for businesses and the self-employed following some confusion over which sectors were still able to work.[70]

On 26 March, the States of Guernsey announced 'shielding' measures for extremely vulnerable individuals, advising them to stay at home for 12 weeks and minimise all physical contact with others.[71] With the number of cases reaching 91 on 1 April, the response was reported to be moving to the 'delay' phase of the strategy.[39] The States of Guernsey also clarified that leaving the house to escape domestic abuse was acceptable as it would be considered an essential reason, and published guidance for victims of domestic abuse and recommended an app which allows the user's smartphone to become a safety device, sending their location to designated contacts when activated by shaking the phone.[72] St Pier also appealed for islanders to complete a voluntary online form in order to gather information on "how the community are feeling", and asked islanders to send questions to the States via email to be answered at the next press conference.[73][74]

On 2 April, the CCA approved the following statutory emergency regulations, described by St Pier as being "largely designed to plan ahead to enable us to better manage issues that will emerge as a result of the need for us to all keep our distance from each other", all of which came into effect the same day:

  • The Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Mental Health) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations, 2020, which modifies certain requirements stipulated in the Mental Health (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2010 per advice by the HSC following concerns over its functioning during the pandemic.
  • The Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Parochial Matters and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Guernsey) Regulations, 2020, which enables parishes to continue conducting business in the absence of ratepayers’ meetings which are now impossible under lockdown restrictions.
  • The Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Registration of Deaths etc. and Cremation Procedures) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations, 2020, which modifies procedures in relation to deaths and cremations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) (Temporary Registration of Health Professionals) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations, 2020, which allows HSC to temporarily hire retired or non-practising medical professionals (who would ordinarily be required to be registered in the UK) should they consider it necessary and proportionate to do so.[75][76][77]

On 5 April, the Overseas Aid and Development Commission (OA&DC) (constituted as a committee of the States of Guernsey) agreed to suspend all grants anticipated for projects in 2021 in order to save and return over £1 million to the States of Guernsey to support the response to the pandemic.[78] Following confirmation of two clusters of cases in separate care homes in Guernsey with tens of staff and residents being diagnosed with COVID-19, the States of Guernsey published an 'urgent public request' for former care home workers or volunteers to help out in care homes and community care facilities, as well as designating a separate programme designed specifically for responding to the pandemic within the care home sector in the Bailiwick.[79][80]

7 April–present: Lockdown extended[edit]

On 7 April, the States of Guernsey confirmed in a live media briefing that the lockdown measures would remain in place for at least another 14 days. Changes were made to restrictions on businesses, taking effect from midnight on 8 April, to allow non-essential retailers to carry out home deliveries, providing strict social distancing and hygiene measures are followed and no more than two employees are on the premises.[81][82] Recognising the high proportion of deaths and cases coming from care homes across the island, the States of Guernsey decided on 9 April to stop all care home visits by family and friends "for the foreseeable future". All hospital visits to COVID-19 wards or patients are not permitted, and hospices will stop routine visits; 'end of life' visits will be assessed individually.[83]

Testing and surveillance[edit]

Development of facilities[edit]

Without testing facilities available locally, samples were initially sent off-island to be tested by a specialist laboratory in the UK until the Bailiwick had developed its own.[84] Due to the increased demand on UK laboratories to conduct tests, the time taken for results to be received was significantly increased on several occasions beyond the standard time of 48 hours.[2][9] On 21 March, the Policy and Resources Committee announced that it expected Guernsey to be carrying out tests by April and to deliver results within 24 hours.[85][86] In a letter sent to the UK's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on 20 March, Gavin St Pier explained how the UK testing centre initially testing Guernsey samples had discontinued their support and demanded a guarantee that testing support would be provided to the Crown Dependencies from the UK until Guernsey had established its own testing facility; the response from Johnson obliged, confirming that Colindale Public Health Laboratory would provide testing facilities until Guernsey could do so itself.[87]

On 24 March, the Director of Public Health confirmed that the island would have two ways of testing for the coronavirus, with results available in half a day, and that tests would be prioritised for healthcare workers, hospital patients with respiratory symptoms and islanders showing the relevant symptoms needing to see a doctor.[88] On 26 March, it was announced that the final piece of equipment required for on-island testing had arrived and that testing would begin once staff were trained and due checks were completed.[89] On 30 March, it was announced that local testing facility was in use, meaning results would be available far quicker than tests conducted off-island. As a result, Public Health announced that from 31 March they will conduct a broader community testing programme, testing individuals suffering respiratory problems at local doctors' surgeries.[90][10] The States of Guernsey has described the testing process as 'quick and simple', saying that those unable to drive or be driven to the screening facility can make arrangements to be tested at home.[91]

Surveillance of cases[edit]

Dr Nicola Brink, the Director for Public Health, explained the process of dealing with suspected cases as follows: detection of a possible case; immediate quarantine; and contact tracing, to identify those at risk of transmission from that possible case and test, monitor and isolate them to stop the spread of the disease.[92] Those who have been contacted directly by the States of Guernsey and ordered to self-isolate (such as individuals with confirmed cases, contacts of confirmed cases and individuals booked for testing or awaiting results) are subject to regular welfare checks; the checks were originally conducted by Public Health Services before being taken over by third sector volunteers.[93]

On 3 April, it was revealed that hospital workers are prioritised for testing should they display any of the relevant symptoms and that workers would be withdrawn from work if they are feeling even slightly unwell and rapidly tested. Dr Brink also announced that once antibody testing—which can identify individuals immune to the disease—becomes available, hospital workers would again be prioritised.[94]

Positive cases are re-tested 14 days later or 48 hours after any symptoms have been resolved (whichever is latest).[95] As of 8 April, 38 previously confirmed cases have been reported to be recovered;[2] acknowledging that there are various definitions of 'recovery' for the coronavirus, Dr Brink clarified that the States were using "the virological definition with a repeat test on day 14 to show the virus has gone".[96]

Results and analysis[edit]

As of 8 April, 1,287 samples have been tested, yielding 181 positive results and 1084 negative results with 22 results yet to be confirmed.[2] The actual number of cases is likely to be higher than the preceding figure due to the relatively low number of tests carried out.[97]

The States of Guernsey has the capacity to test up to 75 samples per day (40 on-island and 35 through a UK laboratory), though this is subject to fast change.[98] St Pier has highlighted the relatively high number of tests being conducted in Guernsey as part of their strategy, noting that the island was testing 11.67 people per 100,000 population while the UK was only testing 2.46 per 100,000, which accounts for a relatively higher number of cases being identified.[99]

As of 8 April, the States of Guernsey have identified the UK, France, Tenerife, mainland Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Jersey as well as local transmissions, as sources of the infection in the Bailiwick.[100] The age range of positive cases spanned from less than one-year-old to over 90 years old; the average age of patients was 56, with an average age of 57 for males and 54 for females.[42][2] As of 7 April, only 13 out of 166 confirmed cases have been from unidentified community seeding, with the majority of remaining cases coming from identified clusters.[101]

Financial support measures[edit]

On 19 March the States of Guernsey announced that it had made available a £5 million 'hardship fund' for any islanders (excluding those already eligible to receive national social security benefits) struggling financially from the impact of the pandemic.[102] The States also set up a government-funded health insurance scheme to cover the medical bills of any Bailiwick residents who fall ill while visiting the UK, providing they can prove they cannot afford private health insurance.[103] The States also announced on 23 March that it would be amending population law to protect non-residents who might find themselves without employment as a result of the pandemic and would otherwise be forced to leave the island.[104]

On 19 March, the States of Guernsey also published advice to businesses including a number of financial 'easements' such as deferrals on social insurance payments and commercial tax on real property, and rent reliefs on government-owned property.[105] On 20 March, the finalised emergency financial measures were approved including £30 million to support businesses, a £40 million loan guarantee scheme for locally-trading firms and a £25 million temporary overdraft for local airline Aurigny.[106] On 24 March the Guernsey Financial Services Commission (GFSC) approved time extensions for businesses to file their financial returns in light of operational issues suffered as a result of the pandemic.[107]

On 24 March the Policy and Resources Committee announced two new schemes to support businesses and the self-employed, with both schemes totalling an estimated £41 million. The payroll co-sharing scheme—lasting for an initial period of 13 weeks—will cover 80% of employee wages, based on the Guernsey minimum wage of £8.50 per hour (equating to £238 for a 35-hour week), with the remaining 20% expected to be covered by businesses themselves; there is no restriction placed on the size of the businesses eligible for this scheme. The grants scheme allows small businesses (of fewer than 10 people) and the self-employed to be awarded a £3000 grant to be utilised in "whichever way they deem appropriate". The committee predicted that around 1,700 businesses will qualify for the scheme with roughly 10,500 total employees.[108][8]

President of the Policy and Resources Committee, Gavin St Pier, confirmed on 27 March that local banks had been given flexibility by their regulator—the Bank of England—to give more loans to individuals and businesses and encouraged anyone in need to contact them and arrange a loan.[109] On 30 March, a £40m loan guarantee scheme was launched by the States of Guernsey in partnership with the governments of the other Crown Dependencies of Jersey and the Isle of Man, and operated by Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and RBSI and NatWest International, to provide further support for businesses. The scheme enables businesses to take out new loans and overdrafts of up to £500,000, with 80% of the total amount provided to be underwritten by the States of Guernsey.[7]

Healthcare and treatment[edit]

The Committee for Health and Social Care announced, on 19 March, its plans for the island's only hospital—the Princess Elizabeth Hospital (PEH)—to respond to the development of the spread of COVID-19 on the island. Measures taken include the suspension of elective surgery from 23 March, training staff to "increase resilience in the provision of critical care", and limiting in-patients to one visitor at a time.[110] On 23 March the States of Guernsey made the decision to close the hospital to visitors with exceptions for people in end of life care and occupants of the maternity and children's wards.[111] In order to combat the pandemic, agency nurses due to return to the UK stayed in Guernsey to work the hospital.[112]

On 27 March, the hospital's Day Care Unit completed its two-week conversion into an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in preparation for accommodation potential coronavirus patients. It was also reported that Guernsey "started with more intensive care beds than the UK per head of population" and was "already in a good position for ventilators".[31] On 27 March, the hospital adopted a new streaming system, whereby patients entering the Emergency Department must first meet with a streaming nurse who will question the patient about their travel history, self-isolation and possible contact with COVID-19-positive patients. Once assessed, the patient is sent to either Red Zone 1 if they have COVID-19 symptoms or have had contact with a positive patient, or to Yellow Zone 2 if they are symptom free.[113][114] All nurses and staff in the dedicated unit are required to wear protective equipment.[112]

On 30 March, the Medical Director of Health and Social Care, Dr Peter Rabey, gave assurances that the Princess Elizabeth Hospital was "well prepared" for an increase in patients suffering from COVID-19 and said that Guernsey has more ventilators per head of population than the UK.[115][116] On 31 March, it was announced that patients going to the hospital presenting symptoms related to COVID-19 would not have to pay for a check-up nor pay for their treatment.[117] On 2 April, it was announced that the Chest and Heart unit at the hospital would, from the next day, function as the designated doctors' surgery for anyone instructed to book an appointment after phoning their local surgery and presenting symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection.[118] On 5 April, it was announced that HSC would be spending between £15 million and £20 million to update the Princess Elizabeth Hospital's "ageing and increasingly vulnerable" health record system, expected to be installed over 18 months, to aid the response to COVID-19.[119]

As of 8 April, there are 3 patients with COVID-19 being treated at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital; none are currently in intensive care or require ventilatory support. The States of Guernsey have predicted that between 8–15% of all COVID-19 cases will require hospital care.[120]

Economic impact[edit]

Consumer behaviour[edit]

Members of the public have resorted to panic buying at supermarkets and food stores across the Bailiwick, resulting in long queues and shortages of toilet paper, pasta and fresh produce. Stores have limited the purchase of essential products to three items, placed security guards place in aisles and used tape to enforce social distancing at tills. Addressing the public's panicked response, on 22 March the States of Guernsey gave assurances that the island has "no current issues with the supply of essential goods" and implored people to remain considerate of others and stop panic buying, telling those who continue to do so "to just get a grip and not be so selfish".[121]

The States of Guernsey issued a statement requesting people stop stockpiling medicine following a surge in people buying painkillers and other medicine in bulk and reports of people pressuring pharmacists to dispense prescriptions in advance. The States warned that stockpiling was putting unnecessary pressure on the supply chain and that there were otherwise no concerns about shortages or supply to the island.[122]

On 2 April, Guernsey Electricity reported a 10% reduction in energy usage since the lockdown imposed on 25 March, describing the drop as 'remarkable' and citing the closure of businesses as well as an increase in temperatures as likely causes.[123]

A study by Island Global Research on the impact of the pandemic in the Crown Dependencies found that, for the week commencing 23 March, 79% of respondents in Guernsey were able to get all or most of the essential grocery items they wanted when shopping.[124][125]

Employment[edit]

On 1 April, it was confirmed that 1,100 people had enquired about the States of Guernsey hardship fund, with over 2000 emails requesting further information. The money will be administered as a social security for those in need who do not qualify otherwise for income support or sickness benefit. Those eligible for the fund include those who have been made redundant, have a severely reduced household income, are unable to work from home and in mandatory self-isolation, or are unable to work because they are caring for a dependent child who cannot be otherwise cared for.[126][39]

On 2 April, it was announced that Guernsey-based company Specsavers—the largest private employer in the Bailiwick—was anticipating cuts of 5% to company staff due to the significant impact of the pandemic on the company's sales and revenue, resulting in around 20 redundancies on the island.[127]

On 6 April, Channel Island Lines, a locally trading shipping company, announced that it was ceasing operations with immediate effect, rendering eighty people unemployed (including 12 in Guernsey). The company cited "very difficult trading conditions" caused by the pandemic as the reason for the collapse.[128]

On 8 April, it was reported that Intersurgical Guernsey, a local company which produces medical equipment essential for the treatment of patients with COVID-19, had increased their output by 36% from about 350,000 products a week to more than 500,000, and had taken on 12 extra staff including some who had previously been made redundant as a result of the pandemic.[129][130]

Food and hospitality[edit]

Local pubs and licensed premises not serving food (including the Cock and Bull, pictured) were forced to close on 20 March; all food-serving establishments were closed soon after.

On 20 March the States of Guernsey imposed restrictions on all bars, clubs and premises licensed to serve alcohol stipulating that all nightclubs and bars which do not serve hot food must close, and alcohol may only be served to seated customers at pubs and restaurants if it is ancillary to prepared or plated food.[131] Deputy Gavin St Pier also urged both customers and licensees to respect the spirit, not the letter of the law, and not to look for ways around the restriction,[132] advising those tempted to "Think again. Watch Netflix and get a takeaway".[133]

Restaurants and premises serving food as well as local gyms initially remained open for business subject to strict regulations ensuring customers are able to physically distance themselves from one another.[134] On 23 March, Liberation Group—which owns a number of pubs, bars and restaurants in Guernsey—made the decision to close all of its sites.[135] On 29 March, following a clarification of the strict lockdown measures implemented four days prior, all restaurants, cafes and kiosks—many of which had made arrangements to provide food delivery services in order to stay open through the lockdown—were ordered to shut.[136]

On 31 March, Sandpiper CI—Guernsey's largest retailer—announced that its purchase of the Guernsey Pub Company, owners of Randalls Brewery, had fallen through due to the impact of the pandemic, with the sale and purchase agreement terminating on 1 April.[137]

Property market[edit]

It was reported on 6 April that property sales and lettings had not "dramatically dropped", and that despite house viewings including those by surveyors and conveyancers being cancelled due to the lockdown measures, estate agents were remaining optimisitic while it was too early to estimate the impact of the pandemic on property in Guernsey.[138]

Travel and tourism[edit]

Local airline Aurigny significantly reduced its schedule due to a reduction in demand, in-part due to government advice against non-essential travel.

On 11 March it was announced that Guernsey Harbours had cancelled the arrival of a cruise ship scheduled to arrive on 20 March as a precautionary measure.[139] Subsequently, on 19 March individual operators cancelled all cruise trips until the start of may, including nine scheduled to visit the island in April and three in May.[140]

On 21 March it was announced that, following directives from the States of Guernsey, no boats are permitted to land on Herm from outside the Bailiwick until at least the end of April.[141] On 23 March Sark Shipping suspended all passenger boats to the island.[142] All Sark residents were repatriated by 30 March, from which date three freight-only services would be the only travel to the island.[143]

On 18 March, local airline Blue Islands offered citizens repatriation flights before the islands passed the isolation deadline;[144] two days later, on 20 March, the airline announced it was stopping all flights out of Guernsey due to lack of demand.[145]

On 19 March, local airline Aurigny announced changes to its scheduling which included a reduction in services between some destinations and a suspension of other routes entirely, initially planned to run until 19 April. The airline said the aim of the reduced schedule was to "reduce costs in this unprecedented period of low demand" and said they hoped to return to their regular schedule for summer.[146] On 25 March, Aurigny announced a severely reduced schedule to operate until 31 May, running only one flight a day to and from Gatwick and Southampton. The flights are available only to customers with an essential reason for travelling.[147] On 3 April, Aurigny announced it would be suspending all flights to and from Gatwick from 6 April until the end of May.[148]

Social impact[edit]

Education[edit]

On 19 March, Public Health announced that all schools in the Bailiwick will be closed from 23 March until at least the end of the Easter break, with the intention to re-open once on-island testing is introduced.[84] The States of Guernsey also published advice to students studying in the UK or abroad to return to the island, in light of many institutions closing due to the pandemic, asking in a statement on 17 March that students consider coming home "sooner rather than later, even if this requires a period of self-isolation".[64]

On 22 March, the States of Guernsey announced that children whose parents are both categorised as critical workers (or if one parent is a nurse, doctor, other key health or care worker, teaching staff, or staff essential to supporting the States of Guernsey's response) will be allowed to return to school until scheduled Easter holidays begin, but must continue to observe social distancing measures. Gavin St Pier, head of the Civil Contingencies Authority, said that they predict these measures will see between 10% and 15% of children continuing to attend schools during the temporary stoppage of education.[149] On 1 April, it was announced that schools would stay open during the Easter holidays for children of critical workers, as well as children and young people with special educational needs.[150]

On 3 April, it was announced that confirmations of primary and secondary school places, normally sent out before the end of the spring term, would be delayed due to the impact of the pandemic.[151]

On 7 April it was announced that 126 children and young people were being looked after at school.[152]

Event cancellations[edit]

Following government advice on social distancing and limiting contact with others, a number of local events have been cancelled or postponed including Liberation Day celebrations and the Guernsey Literary festival.[153][154] A study by Island Global Research on the impact of the pandemic in the Crown Dependencies found that, for the week commencing 23 March, 87% of respondents in Guernsey were forced to postpone or cancel social plans or events due to the pandemic.[124][125]

Following churches across the island being closed to indoor public gatherings, effectively cancelling weekly congregations, on 19 March it was announced that BBC Radio Guernsey would be hosting, as one of the BBC's Local Radio stations, wireless congregations every Sunday between 08:00 and 08:30.[155]

Sport[edit]

The impact of the pandemic has significantly affected sport on the island. Event cancellations include the Guernsey Marathon, the Muratti Vase semi-final and a number of Guernsey F.C. matches.[156]

On 26 March, it was announced that all remaining 2019–20 Isthmian League fixtures would be cancelled and the season voided, meaning Guernsey F.C. would play no more games that season.[157]

The Guernsey Raiders led the London & South East Premier when the division was ended prematurely due to the pandemic; despite the season not running its full course, Raiders were granted promotion to National League 2 South for the following season.[158]

On 7 April, it was announced that the 2020 edition of the Siam Cup—the annual rugby contest between Guernsey and Jersey and the second-oldest rugby trophy in existence—would be played in May 2021.[159]

Xenophobia and racism[edit]

On 3 April, a woman of Asian descent was verbally racially abused by a man in a car park at a Waitrose store on the Rohais.[160]

Other responses[edit]

On 23 March the Royal Court issued several changes to its procedures in response to the pandemic to allow for social distancing measures. A 'basic provision' of marriage services will still be provided, but staffing will be halved along with closures of the petty debts court, access to the strongroom and limits on people attending the contracts court.[161][162]

Airtel-Vodafone announced on 20 March that it had increased customers' data allowance to 50GB for an initial one-month period to support those working from home during the pandemic.[163] Sure also announced it would be offering free upgrades to customers' broadband speeds lasting until July.[164]

On 31 March, Rubis announced that it would be offering free fuel to all frontline hospital workers at hospitals across the Channel Islands. Workers will be able to claim a fuel voucher which may be used at any Rubis forecourt.[165] A local fundraiser to support healthcare workers and community care staff has generated over £4,000.[166]

Images and designs of rainbows have been displayed across the island as "a symbol positivity and hope" during the pandemic.[167]

Public opinion[edit]

On 7 April, it was reported that a study conducted by Island Global Research found that 77% of islanders perceived the threat from the pandemic as high or very high. The study also revealed that around 25% of under-30s believed the pandemic posed a high or very high threat to them compared to around 50% people aged over 70, and that, in general, people perceive the threat of the pandemic to be greater for family members than for themselves, especially those living in the UK instead of in Guernsey.[168]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Only includes confirmed COVID-19 deaths. The States of Guernsey report 'confirmed' and 'presumptive' COVID-19 deaths separately.
  2. ^ The States of Guernsey has also recorded (separately) 2 'presumptive' deaths presumed to be due to COVID-19.

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