Chief Medical Officer Beccy Edwards said this week that “we are still in the foothills of the global curve” of Covid-19, as Falkland Islands Government confirmed that they will not yet be reducing the 14-day quarantine requirements.

Dr Edwards attended a press conference at the Liberation Room in Stanley to answer questions related to the pandemic, alongside FIG Chief Executive Barry Rowland and MLA Leona Roberts.

Asked about the prospect of a vaccine or herd immunity making an exit plan obtainable, Dr Edwards said, “Personally I believe we’re going to have to learn to live alongside Covid rather than waiting for Covid to disappear … I think a lot of the processes that we have in place that we’re sort of naturally doing now – using the alcohol gel, trying not to have mass gatherings, if you’re unwell staying away from other people – that’s going to be with us forever … And if not Covid the next nasty infectious virus to come along.”

Responding to examples of other islands that have different quarantine requirements, Mr Rowland said, “Our view is that we want to minimise that risk and therefore the 14-day quarantine arrangements will stay. We’ve also made it pretty clear that we won’t be reviewing our visitor policy either to include tourists.”

Dr Edwards added that while she would be reviewing the quarantine process, that would largely centre around surveillance swabbing. “We probably will introduce swabbing for people in quarantine at specified intervals, and if they’re living in shared accommodation we’ll probably push that out to include people who share that accommodation with them.
“The swabbing that has been discussed previously is double swabbing, so you’d have a swab on day two or day three and then you’d repeat the swab maybe at day eight, and then if they’re negative again you catch about 92% of everybody who might have Covid. So clearly there is a risk there, but it’s still a much lower risk than doing nothing … But there is no desire to reduce that 14-day quarantine at the moment.”

Asked about government exit plans for the long term, Barry Rowland said, “We’ve got a set of plans for various circumstances including coming out of quarantine altogether and we’ll be taking what we call the ‘Plan on a Page’ to ExCo on the 16th of this month, and then we’ll publish those various responses to various sets of circumstances. This is what we’ll do to move towards normality.”

In addition, plans are in motion to provide support for the stricken tourism industry. “I would hope by the end of next week we will be looking for a formal ExCo decision. We want to give those in the tourism sector the confidence that there will be support from government to triage and support them during this next season.”

It was also confirmed that some frontline healthcare staff are being considered for honorariums after their performance during the last Covid lockdown.

“Several are being processed … The line manager has to fill in a form explaining why they feel that particular member of staff has gone above and beyond their usual work and then that is assessed by the director,” said Dr Edwards.