Gary Burgess: Jersey’s Covid omnishambles weekend

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There’s a lovely word from the satirical TV show about politics, The Thick of It, that sums up a confluence of problems: omnishambles.

Jersey is enjoying one this weekend.

The already-creaking test and trace system has been under significant strain in recent weeks as case numbers rise and around a thousand people get caught up in the isolation net.

But then the actual IT system failed. Cue chaos.

People waiting for nine days in some cases to get a so-called “day zero” test to see if, as a close contact of a positive case, they themselves have caught Covid.

Among them children who, while the isolation rules were recently relaxed, are suddenly imprisoned because the system just isn’t coping.

I’ve had reports of people being sent the wrong messaging on arrival into the island about the rules they need to follow as ‘the system’ has been spewing out the wrong messages to the wrong people.

And to make it worse, the government’s own Communications Unit issued a terrible piece of communication on Friday night that was so badly worded it left people assuming all arrivals from the UK needed to isolate for ten days even if they’re fully vaccinated (for clarity: they don’t need to).

The hundreds of messages under their social media post show people saying their plans were in ruins. In reality it was the government’s own clumsiness causing anxiety, stress and upset.

IT systems fail. People make mistakes with social media posts. But it’s how you deal with them that matters.

All we’ve had this weekend is a short statement, supposedly written by the Chief Minister, admitting things aren’t good enough and that there’s a crisis meeting due to happen today (Sunday).

In the meantime the suffering goes on.

Hospitality businesses forced to shut down because the contact tracing system is a blunt instrument that’s forcing whole workplaces to go home. School children, ironically on Jersey's Children’s Day, are locked in their rooms. And there’s a palpable sense that islanders are losing faith in the rules because many simply don’t pass the ‘sniff test’.

We’ve a pivotal week ahead where the government needs to prove it’s got a handle on things, that the rules match the situation we find ourselves in, and that it can get a grip on an omnishambles of its own making. 

Read more of Gary's blog posts here.