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LETTER: "Compulsory £25 LFT charge is a covid travel tax by stealth"

LETTER:

Thursday 29 July 2021

LETTER: "Compulsory £25 LFT charge is a covid travel tax by stealth"


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.

"Calling NHS lateral flow tests ‘inconsistent’ and therefore unacceptable is insulting our intelligence"

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.’

"It’s a covid travel tax by stealth that will affect travelling low-income families the hardest"

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?

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