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Channel Islands papers react to differing responses to Covid-19 crisis

Posted on: March 25, 2020 by Ellen Bramley

Neighbouring Channel Islands papers The Jersey Evening Post and Guernsey Press have found themselves taking differing stances to the Covid-19 crisis.

The Jersey paper today (March 25) called on the island’s government to take more decisive action to combat the coronavirus outbreak where five cases have been reported.

In a front-page statement, the paper made a direct appeal to the island’s First Minister to go further in the government’s efforts to prevent the virus from spreading. Jersey has not yet been placed under the same lockdown conditions as the mainland.

In neighbouring Guernsey, however, a lockdown has been ordered and the Guernsey Press has felt itself able to take a more supportive approach to the island government’s reaction to the crisis.

In its front-page editorial entitled ‘What Are You Waiting For, Chief Minister?’ the Jersey Evening Post calls on the government to impose a lockdown and take stronger measures to flatten the curve of the virus outbreak. The paper also demands transparency of the island’s financial resources to fight the effects of the virus, daily briefings from the Chief Minister and an outline of what steps are being out in place to support islanders if the crisis deepens.

“In the face of this unprecedented challenge Jersey needs strong and effective leadership. Leading the Island in the right direction is a matter of life and death of that we can be sure, ” said the paper’s editorial.

Evening Post Editor Andy Sibcy said: “Our readers have watched as neighbouring communities, albeit across the water, have taken much more robust measures to combat the coronavirus than have been imposed here in Jersey. Jersey is not yet in lockdown, although social distancing is being urged with mixed levels of success. Restaurants which can enable distancing are still open. That has caused considerable concern across the community, a feeling amplified by widespread concern that the Island lacks strong, reassuring and visible leadership at this time of crisis.

“The fourth estate’s role is to challenge and question, to reflect the thoughts of our readers and make sure those in authority listen. This front page was a call for action – for our Chief Minister to step up or step aside.”

On neighbouring Guernsey, the paper has felt able to be more supportive of measures taken by the government.

In it’s editorial today (March 25) the Press states: ‘The two-week shutdown – and it may well be longer – will not be easy. In today’s centre spread Gavin St Pier explains his fears over what isolation will do to the economy and people’s mental health. But delay is our greater enemy. The time is now. We must make the sacrifice count.’

Editor Shaun Green explained: “There seems a very different dynamic in Jersey, which is not unusual despite the 20-mile distance.

 “It is probably just plain luck that we have a very strong leadership team at the very moment we need them. Our chief minister has been front and centre of the fight against Covid-19, making tough calls and explaining his decisions with clarity and honesty. He is supported by Dr Nicola Brink, our Director of Public Health. She speaks with genuine calm authority and inspires trust.

“That is not to say there is no debate about the timing of the actions taken or the severity. We went into lockdown today, but many would prefer if it had been earlier and there were stricter measures. The reasons why we acted now have been explained and they seem credible. We are not experts and now is the time to listen to those with all the information.

“For the moment, the newspaper has strongly urged islanders to have faith in their leaders and follow health advice to the letter. We feel that a united community following instruction has much more chance of getting through this than a divided one.”

The Jersey Evening Post Press Leader comment can be found here

The Guernsey Press Leader comment can be found here

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