Letter from Guernsey (a coronavirus update)

Dear Biberachers,

This is a brief update from your friends in Guernsey, an island twinned with Biberach through its very special relationship.

As of today, we have 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19 from 472 people tested, with 365 negatives and 71 still awaiting results. The island was put on strict lockdown from midnight, Tuesday 24 March, after Guernsey’s Public Health team identified a case of ‘community seeding’. The suggested period of lockdown is initially 14 days, although we appreciate how the situation is changing daily and expect this period to be extended.

So, and as with many other countries, this means people must now stay at home, except for very limited reasons, with all non-essential shops and businesses being closed and with all gatherings in public of groups of more than 2 persons now forbidden.

In practical terms, this means people must work from home and only leave the house for 1 of 4 reasons; – shopping for basic necessities (supermarkets are still well stocked and organised, controlling entry by numbers and policing correct ‘social distancing’ at the check-out) – 1 form of exercise a day (with a 2 hour allowance) – any medical need – or travelling to/from work (for critical workers only)

Our government, the States of Guernsey, has been exceptionally well led to date by Chief Minister, Gavin St Pier, and his team (Heads of Public Health and Law Enforcement), who have been clear & precise in their plans, communicating regularly to the island via media briefings that are broadcast live via social media.

Their confidence and authority has been noticeable and appreciated. It is in times of crisis that true leadership qualities shine through… And so, like everyone else in our changed world, we must adapt to a new way of living and hope/pray the situation will be controlled soon.


Meanwhile, life continues. Church services are streamed live to housebound congregations.

People – certainly from my experience – are practicing proper social distancing when they do venture outside, and are being urged to #BeKind to others, particularly the elderly and disadvantaged.

Our vital food supply is being well maintained, with freight ships arriving regularly, day and night (rice and pasta are in demand, but toilet paper is so far in plentiful supply!).

Our holiday season has been devastated, with hotels closed and many staff now made redundant. However, the government has been swift to consider essential financial support for businesses, and we are waiting to learn the details (this will be important for many employers, not just in the hospitality sector, who are worried about their own situations, their staff and the knock on effects).

For many, the similarities to the war years are striking, particularly with Guernsey having been an occupied island. As our Chief Minister commented when announcing the recent lockdown, ‘Even during the Occupation, the islands’ residents had more personal freedom to move about our islands than will be the case for the time being, which illustrates the scale of the threat to the community and our willingness to take tough decisions quickly’.

We are acutely aware of the suffering that this pandemic is causing throughout mainland Europe, and the world.

We hope and pray that Biberach is managing to control its spread, without too many casualties.

So keep well. And stay safe.

From your friends in Guernsey, who are thinking of you.

Chris Betley
Honorary Consul
for the Federal Republic of Germany to Guernsey