Gary Burgess: Are you convinced when the Chief Minister says 'we’ve not lost control'?

Senator John Le Fondre
Senator John Le Fondre says the Government is in control of the rising number of Covid 19 cases. Credit: ITV Channel

First up, there’s a lot to be said for the Chief Minister’s “we haven’t lost control” message to frustrated backbenchers, today.

Senator John Le Fondré made it clear “the professionals” had advised the effect of recent measures, including the hospitality shutdown, wouldn’t be seen until around this weekend.

But, beyond that, there’s a lot in what he and the Health Minister said during question time that really does warrant closer scrutiny.

First up, the Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, doesn’t know the current R rate, and indicated officers were too busy to work it out. He instead quoted a two-week-old figure which helps precisely nobody (except perhaps himself).

The Chief Minister said the current positivity rate was around 3%. My latest calculation shows it to be nearer 5% and rising.

He also said when you test more you find more, which – aside of being a Trumpeque lesson in the bleeding obvious – does little to add context to proceedings. Around half of those currently testing positive asked for a test because they’ve fallen ill with Covid-19 symptoms. That’s an important bit of detail to remember.

And the Chief Minister, today, kept referencing the advice from “the professionals”, note not the medics, yet the promised publication of minutes from those experts (a group called STAC) still haven’t seen the light of day. There’s been nothing since August despite repeated questions in parliament and repeated promises they’re imminent.

Jersey currently has around 400 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people over the past seven days, putting it among the world leading nations of “it’s bad”. Yet the Chief Minister keeps indicating it’s fine.

Indeed, he compared the current situation with that in the spring time. Whereas then the estimate of the real number of live cases was 10 times the number found through testing, it’s now around three times, so in whole number terms the situation is equally good (or bad).

The big difference was the response in the spring was to lockdown the island.

The response this time is to keep all but hospitality open, and create confusing Christmas gathering rules which would allow every islander to meet up with 27 different people on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, should they be stupid enough to want to do so.

And so, back to where I started: “we haven’t lost control”.

What I think matters not a jot, but what thousands (and I do mean thousands) of islanders are telling me in their messages in the past week, and was evident among backbenchers (and some ministers) today, is that not enough people are convinced by the Chief Minister’s bold assertion.