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Premier banking on high vaccination levels to avoid new lockdown

Health authorities view the island’s vaccination levels as a likely safeguard against the surge of coronavirus cases seen in the spring, the Premier said yesterday.

But David Burt warned he could not rule out further shelter in place lockdowns if the hospital was swamped with an influx of Covid-19 patients.

He said: “One of the things politicians and leaders should never do is make absolute promises, so I’m not going to.”

But he added: “There is absolutely no desire whatsoever to go to a harsher level of restrictions.”

Mr Burt backed statements made by Kim Wilson, the health minister, last month.

He said: “As was stated by the Minister of Health before I left, we have to adjust our lives, not interrupt our lives.”

Mr Burt, who returned from a summer break on Tuesday, said he had not yet had a chance to discuss boosting the island’s level of fully vaccinated people.

But he added meetings with health officials were planned for later yesterday and this morning.

Mr Burt said restrictions to contain the virus were designed to contain “transmission events where masks are removed”.

“There is not singling out of any type of establishment. That is not what the aim is.

“They are not targeted towards restaurants and bars, or gyms – they are targeted towards activities and that is indoor spaces where masks are removed.

“We’re talking about places where there is a higher possibility of transmission.”

Mr Burt highlighted that the island’s last “outbreak of concern” which struck in March and April, was put down to the Alpha variant of the coronavirus.

He said: “Back then we had far lower vaccination rates, which meant more stresses on the hospital.

“We got up to about 40 hospitalisations. The hospital was three days from being filled.

“If we begin to approach those levels, which we believe is unlikely given the level of vaccination protection in our community, then there will be different decisions that have to be made.”

The Government has maintained since the pandemic hit last year that vaccination was a personal choice, even as Mr Burt emphasised that the jabs were effective in serious illness and hospital cases.

He said: “We have given people the opportunity to protect themselves.

“If they choose not to avail themselves, if they do get sick and have to be hospitalised, we’ll do what we can to take care of them.

“What we cannot do is enact restrictions just because there is a rise in cases, when there’s not a similar rise in hospitalisations.“

He added: “As long as the healthcare system is not in danger of being overwhelmed, we believe we’re taking the appropriate measures.

“What we are doing is making sure we do what is necessary to keep transmission at a controlled level while we continue to try to vaccinate more of our population and enact the protections which are necessary.”

Mr Burt said the Government aims were simple and designed to “protect people’s lives and ensure that our children can attend school in person”.

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Published September 03, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated September 03, 2021 at 7:58 am)

Premier banking on high vaccination levels to avoid new lockdown

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