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'Stick with us' - Guernsey's Chief Minister issues lockdown update to islanders

Deputy Gavin St Pier has written an open letter to the people of Guernsey outlining the steps the government will take next. Credit: ITV Channel TV

Guernsey's Chief Minister has urged islanders to 'stick with' the government as it clarifies what lockdown will mean for the island.

On Tuesday 24 March, Deputy Gavin St Pier announced the initial two-week lockdown in a bid to minimise community spreading of the coronavirus. He described it as 'the most far reaching deprivation of personal liberties since the Second World War.'

In an open letter to the people of Guernsey, Deputy St Pier apologised for any lack of clarity while the overall policy was implemented - urging islanders to 'stick with' the government while they revise and clarify existing guidance.

This week we stumbled on some of the detail, specifically around what that means for essential business and of what ‘locking down’ means. For that, I am sorry.

When we announced the decision, we said that the details would not be perfect. It must be remembered that this has never been done before. We have no rule book or precedents.There will be difficult judgments and nobody said it would be easy. We have, rightly, had to move incredibly fast to protect public health, and there simply has not been time in many cases to deliver fully fleshed out measures that covers every circumstance.

The big policy decision to lock down was the right one, but clearly we recognise that the additional detail may have caused confusion and challenges in its implementation

– Deputy Gavin St Pier, Guernsey's Chief Minister

The letter goes on to say that the States would be issuing detailed revisions to guidance which had already been released, referring to the circumstances under which people are allowed to leave their homes.

The Chief Minister also suggested that a payroll co-sharing scheme, which will see the States subsidise local businesses' salaries by 80% of the minimum wage, would be able to begin paying out by the end of the week, saying the States 'recognise that this is urgent'.

The streets of St Peter Port sat empty on day one of Guernsey's lockdown. Credit: Guernsey Police

He also outlined how the island had stepped up medical preparations to deal with the pandemic. He described how the Princess Elizabeth Hospital's day patient unit had been converted into an additional intensive care unit, while 100 staff in health roles have now been trained so that they can be called on to help if required.

On-island testing equipment is now being trialed in the pathology labs, with staff being trained on how to use it.

Deputy St Pier called for everyone to continue following government instruction - but warned against the dangers of stigma and 'social media mobs'.

We will have no hesitation in changing the rules and doing so very quickly if they are abused, circumstances change or the public health advice changes. The priority was, is and will remain the protection of you and your families, particularly for the benefit of the most vulnerable in our community

We all need to take personal responsibility for mitigating the spread, and there are a reckless handful who still seem determined not to take this seriously. But they are a very small minority. The vast majority of us are trying to find a way of avoiding contact with others, while caring for our families. It is difficult, and judgment from others – particularly in the form of social media mobs – is more than just unhelpful, it is toxic.

– Deputy Gavin St Pier, Guernsey's Chief Minister

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