BLOG: When Gary met Dr Muscat

Dr Muscat is Jersey's Deputy Medical Officer for Health who’s been leading the island’s fight against the pandemic. Credit: ITV Channel TV

I got to speak to Dr Ivan Muscat, today.

He’s Jersey’s Deputy Medical Officer for Health who’s been leading the island’s fight against the pandemic.

He’s a consultant microbiologist by trade and knows his stuff when it comes to tackling viruses.

Reassuringly, to me, his key point was that testing will continue to be at the heart of Jersey’s strategy.

Capacity has been ramped up, so they can now process 3,500 PCR tests a week (they’re the swab tests to see if you currently have Covid-19) and 2,500 antibody or serology tests a week (which show if you’ve previously had it).

There’s now an ongoing programme of swab testing, being done at two drive-in facilities and via a mobile unit that goes where it’s needed – such as care homes. A total of 8,500 people, basically anybody who went out to work regularly during the lockdown phase, can be tested. And those people will get retested on an ongoing basis.

In addition, the cycle of antibody testing with a statistically robust sample of households will continue. The plan, on the second cycle next weekend, will be to test 1,000 households. That’s to get a snapshot of how widespread the virus is in the island. The first sample showed around 3% to 4% of the population had, at that point, already had Covid-19.

There were many points that emerged from my hour with Dr Muscat, in no particular order:

  • He’s clear it is safe to open schools as children are not deemed to be ‘super-spreaders’ of this virus.
  • Any talk of testing arriving passengers in lieu of quarantining will very much be led by the medics deeming it is safe enough to do.
  • There’s little evidence of community-seeding of the virus; in other words all the cases have a clear connection, whether that be in a health setting or in a household.

For those brave enough to sit through all the government press conferences in recent weeks, you’ll know I’ve been calling for Dr Muscat to be made available for quite some time.

Today, for me, finding that time was worthwhile.

I got a chance to drill down on detail, to understand the thought processes and – frankly – get a sense of whether the advice emanating from him is being listened to and acted upon.

My conclusion? Yes it is.

It’ll be great to do a proper sit-down interview with Dr Muscat when his time allows to cover off some of the many issues around coronavirus on camera, but for now it’s good to be able to report back that there clearly is a plan in place, being managed by capable people, and that the advice from the experts is getting through.

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