Making people buy £25 lateral flow testing kits and disallowing free NHS kits is a covid travel tax by stealth that will affect travelling low-income families the hardest, writes Andy Gill.
"The SOG will now supply lateral flow tests on arrival from 3 August, at a compulsory £25 for a pack of five tests. Any UK pharmacy will give you these for free – in fact give you an NHS-branded 7-pack at the prescription counter.
They ask a couple of quick, non-invasive questions such as ‘is there a particular reason you want them?’ I went into two Boots stores in the UK last week - in the first I said I was a tourist - no issue there, and was given a pack. Second one was in Boots - South Terminal, Gatwick (but note Aurigny are now in the North Terminal, upstairs, zone A or B - to the far left) and was given another pack.
But from next week, even though I have these, if I come into Guernsey, I’ll be charged £25 for a pack. If I say no thanks and produce my NHS ones, I’m told they are ‘inconsistent’ and I will still be charged, even if I don’t take them. Sorry, but calling NHS lateral flow tests ‘inconsistent’ and therefore unacceptable compared to the £25 Guernsey 5-pack is insulting our intelligence. Who thought that one up anyway? If I’m not refunded the £25 then this is not a purchase, this is a covid travel tax. Pure and simple.
And Deputy Ferbrache tells us that they cost £17 each and are being sold for £25 due to ‘administrative charges’. Sorry - what are these brand-new costs incurred in order to provide them, that requires a 50% mark-up? Or is that pure profit? I rather think the latter – in other words, a nice little SoG money-spinner.
Deputy Ferbrache tells us it is only £25. Well, it may be only £25 to him but tell that to a low-income family who are having to buy two or more packs when they’ve got multiple 7-pack NHS ones in their luggage. Or to people who have to travel regularly, for example to Southampton hospital. And as the media questions kept highlighting – this is a huge extra cost for weekend or day-trips. So, a real negative for tourism and makes Guernsey less attractive. The message is ‘we don’t want you to travel here, and we’ll tax you on entry to deter you.’
After all we have been through, and with UK covid rates finally falling – hopefully this will continue; with the island of Guernsey having 36 active cases, only 4 of which are community based (and that was days ago, so presumably hopefully little or no spread); and 82% of the adult population double-jabbed (and rising fast), this, then, is a kick in the teeth to Guernsey-Together. It’s a covid travel tax by stealth that will affect travelling low-income families the hardest. And we are told the tax is here for the foreseeable future.
So I ask the SoG: please think this through a bit more and agree that if someone can produce a 7-pack NHS or equivalent LFT kit, then refund the £25. Or better still, you could easily add that as a question on the travel tracker: ‘Do you have your own LFT kit (5 or more tests)? You may be required to show these on entry’. Then there would be no need to charge the £25…please?