Bailiwick of Guernsey becomes first place in the British Isles with no known cases of COVID-19
29th May 2020
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The Channel Island of Guernsey has this week become the first place in the British Isles to see zero active cases of COVID-19, leading to an influx of enquiries from prospective residents.
There have been no new cases across the Bailiwick – which includes the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Jethou – for the whole of the month of May. The final active case was given the all-clear on Wednesday (27 May). On Saturday (30 May) the islands will see a further relaxation of lockdown restrictions, and daily life returning to ‘near-normal’ in many respects.
As Guernsey enters the fourth phase of a planned six-stage exit from lockdown, most businesses will be permitted to open (with social distancing and some restrictions) including restaurants, hairdressers and gyms. Children of all ages will return to schools and childcare facilities. After previously implementing an ‘extended household bubble’ system allowing small gatherings of family and friends grouped by households, from Saturday onwards restrictions on social contact will also be relaxed and residents will be able to hold gatherings of up to 30 people.
The island’s robust response in tackling the pandemic has resulted in significant interest from people looking to relocate to the island. Guernsey’s governmental body dedicated to helping people relocate is Locate Guernsey, led by Director Jo Stoddart.
“Conversations I’m having reflect the exemplary way that Guernsey has handled the pandemic,” she said. “We expected enquiries to slow down after a record 2019 but numbers have held up as individuals and businesses have seen the way the island has responded to COVID-19 and are champing at the bit to relocate here as a result of that. Enquiries since January are up 20% on the same period in 2019 and are coming in from all over the world, from South Africa to Canada, showing that our response is making waves globally.
“People relocating to Guernsey have always been attracted to its safety, stability, security and fantastic quality of life, and the convenience of its proximity to the UK and mainland Europe. However, the island’s response to this global pandemic has really cemented that in people’s minds.”
Exactly how did the Channel Island do it? The Government of Guernsey pursued an incredibly proactive ‘test, trace and isolate’ policy from the outset to combat the virus, and put controls on its borders to limit the risk of cases coming in from other jurisdictions.
The programme has been led by Dr Nicola Brink, Consultant Virologist and Guernsey’s Director of Public Health, who has been lauded across the islands for the success of the strategy. Dr Brink says it’s been a community effort.
“The amazing response from islanders has got us to this excellent position. By investing in testing technology and redeploying staff as contact tracers, we now have so few symptomatic people that we’ve started testing asymptomatic frontline workers, and we’re still yet to see any cases in that sector.
“All our intelligence tells us that we’ve got very little, if any, COVID-19 activity in the community. However, we will continue our expanded testing programme and remain ready to respond, should any cases emerge across any of the islands.”
Mrs Stoddart said that the coordinated effort was proof of the island’s resilience and agility.
“This achievement proves what we in Guernsey already know. We have world-class leaders, an incredible healthcare system and nimble government. Every step of the way they have moved quickly and decisively to protect islanders’ health and secure the future of our economy.
“None of us wanted to be responding to a global pandemic in 2020, but the way we have tackled this as a community means that islanders can now spend their summer as they would usually; enjoying the staggering scenery, cliff walks and beautiful beaches across the Bailiwick.”