The Chief Minister moved to reassure Islanders in the light of confirmation from Guernsey that a patient was receiving treatment, as well as a worsening international picture.
The weekend lockdown of large parts of northern Italy was followed yesterday by the French government announcing that public gatherings of more than 1,000 people would be cancelled.
The UK government stopped short of ‘social distancing’ measures, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was accepted that coronavirus was likely to spread significantly beyond existing levels which have seen 280 confirmed cases and four deaths.
The total number of tests carried out in Jersey rose from 51 on Friday to 84 yesterday – all have been negative so far.
Chief Minister John Le Fondré said there was no evidence that the case in Guernsey resulted from, or has led to, transmission in Jersey, with the patient believed to have returned to Guernsey from Tenerife.
‘It does not matter that Coronavirus is now geographically closer to Jersey, the Island is well-prepared to deal with any cases,’ he said. ‘It is also important to stress that there is no need to behave differently – people can continue to fly and sail between the islands.
‘In the majority of cases, infection with the virus is mild, and, unlike flu, current indications are that individuals who are showing no symptoms are unlikely to be contagious. It cannot be stressed enough that the best way Islanders can protect themselves and others from coronavirus is to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough and put used tissues in the bin immediately.’
Senator Le Fondré addressed the issue in the States yesterday, warning against political point scoring following suggestions in the States that a planned emergency council meeting scheduled for Thursday should be brought forward.
He said: ‘At this time we need to look after Islanders, it is not the time for political point scoring.
‘There is an emergency council meeting schedule for Thursday and there is no need at this time to bring it forward.
‘This is a rapidly changing scenario and if we need to bring it forward we will, but there is no need at this stage.’
The Chief Minister also gave assurances that discussions were taking place about securing supply lines due to the virus and the government was in a strong position to deal with it.
He added: ‘We must not underplay this risk and we must not over exaggerate it either, the consequences can sometimes be worse.’
There were some reports of Islanders emulating the response of people in the UK, Australia and other countries in panic-buying products such as toilet roll, painkillers and long-life foodstuff such as tinned goods and dried pasta, in spite of a lack of evidence that such measures were necessary.
Mark Cox, acting chief executive officer of the Channel Islands Co-operative Society, said: ‘We would urge people not to panic buy because this means we will run short of products and we want to enable everyone to buy what they need. We have got plenty of products coming through from our UK suppliers and will keep our stores as well stocked as possible. We have increased orders and will continue to stockpile items we know are popular at this time.
‘We don’t currently have any restrictions on any of our items but if people continue to panic buy then we may need to review this at the end of the week and put relevant restrictions in place to ensure we maintain supply.’
A ward at University Hospital Southampton that is sometimes used by patients transferred from Jersey has been closed as a result of coronavirus.
The hospital said that a healthcare professional had tested positive after working a shift at the surgical high dependency unit, which had been closed to new admissions as a precaution.
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China, has also been felt by the Jersey Battle of Flowers Association.
For the past few years, organisers have sourced harestail grass used in the creation of floats from Wuhan in China.
Battle spokeswoman Jackie Donald said that the supplier in China had advised that it would be unable to fulfil an order with Jersey due to its factory having been closed since late January.
Mrs Donald said that arrangements were in place with a European supplier for harestails, which she said accounted for around 15% of the products used.
Individuals and businesses in Jersey with concerns about coronavirus are encouraged to visit the gov.je/coronavirus webpage or call the helpline, which is staffed from 8am to 8pm, on 445566.