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READER LETTER: Guernsey's quarantine regulations are "oppressive"

READER LETTER: Guernsey's quarantine regulations are

Tuesday 08 September 2020

READER LETTER: Guernsey's quarantine regulations are "oppressive"


Guernsey businessman Tim Chesney has accused Deputies Gavin St Pier and Heidi Soulsby and Dr Nicola Brink of running an "isolationist" regime and showing a "steadfast refusal" to move to Phase 5c.

"For the past six months the residents of Guernsey have lived under the control and direction of the Civil Contingency Authority (CCA) (Mr St Pier, Heidi Soulsby, Dr Brink).*

During this time normal democracy has been all but suspended and the three members of the CCA have held near absolute powers under the 'Emergency Powers Regulations'.

They are not accountable for the decisions they take. There is patently no longer an 'emergency' in Guernsey, but those powers have still not been relinquished, and most egregiously this state of affairs continues even as the General Election approaches. The CCA are expected to act proportionately, but many people believe that they have not done this.

Guernsey airport

Pictured: Phase 5c will bring testing on arrival at Guernsey's ports, with a shorter isolation period for some travellers.

On the contrary, and despite many comments and observations both in the States of Deliberation and the media, there has been a steadfast refusal to move to level 5c, and there is no date when this will end. This creates a continuing climate of anxiety and uncertainty for many islanders and it causes mental ill health, it is a serious deterrent to leisure and business visitors who would otherwise come to the island, and this absence of visitors has caused colossal economic damage, and it is a giant impediment for islanders who wish to or need to travel off the island even for a day.

The quarantine regulations imposed by the CCA are oppressive. Despite the occasional mirage that things may change, and the dwindling hope that the CCA may adopt the pragmatic and balanced risk assessed approach to testing on arrival from UK and many other places to avoid quarantine akin to what Jersey is doing so successfully, as we enter the autumn the draconian rules applied by the CCA are still being enforced with an iron fist and there is no date when this will end.

Quarantine is imposed with intrusive checks, a fine of up to £10,000 hanging over people's heads, an arrestable offence even for minor transgressions, and there are snitchers hotlines to report neighbours, which many people find intimidatory. Islanders are being subjected to the typical tools used by authoritarian regimes. There is no clear road map offered by the CCA out of this unpleasant stalemate, and there is a sense that any small carrots of hope of a more pragmatic way forward are just used to hold the line, but that a big stick hovers nearby.

Royal Court

Pictured: Some returning travellers who breached their self isolation have been fined in Guernsey's Magistrate's Court.

Lawyers have been instructed, papers will be served in the near future, and there will be a legal challenge to the CCA. This will bring matters into the full glare of the media, both on and off the island. It will present the first opportunity for a long overdue scrutiny of the CCA's actions, their tenure, their modus operandi, the competencies of those who have taken the actions, the scope of those actions, their intentions and the outcomes as well as the staggering costs to the island that have already been incurred and which are accelerating, to the detriment of every taxpayer.

Covid-19 in and of itself has not caused all the economic and other damage, including the tens of millions of pounds in losses by Aurigny - escalating by the day - and the serious risks we now face to long term transport connectivity for the island; a considerable amount of this damage has arisen as a direct result of the isolationist 'Fortress Guernsey' policies adopted by the CCA.

There is an unwillingness by the CCA to accept the global view that covid-19 is an endemic circulatory virus that we must all learn to live with and manage. By contrast Jersey has accepted that reality, and they are forging ahead and leaving Guernsey in their slipstream. So much needless damage has been caused to the Guernsey economy - particularly in certain sectors such as hospitality - livelihoods have been upended, and people's freedoms have been infringed. Furthermore, the repressive quarantine regulations imposed by the CCA continue to deprive thousands of islanders with family off island of their right to a family life. So the time has come for a bright light to focus on all of this.

hotel

Pictured: Local hotels have been particularly affected by Guernsey's travel restrictions.

The legal action has been under consideration for some time, and it has the endorsement of a wide cross section of local residents, including senior finance professionals, retailers, owners of companies in the hospitality sector, other business owners, and many individuals not involved in business at all."

*Editor's footnote - Dr Brink is not a member of the CCA. The full membership is:

Deputies Gavin St Pier, Heidi Soulsby, Mary Lowe and Barry Brehaut as permanent members. 

James Dent, nominated representative of the States of Alderney, and Conseiller John Guille, nominated representative of the Chief Pleas of Sark, complete the authority as temporary members. 

Deputies Gavin St Pier and Heidi Soulsby of the CCA responded:

"There are four permanent members of the Civil Contingencies Authority; the Presidents of the Policy & Resources Committee, Committee for Health & Social Care, the Committee for Home Affairs and the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure. As a point of correction on your correspondent's assertions around decision-making, Dr Brink is not a member of the CCA.

"While we of course recognise that the travel restrictions in place have been challenging for many islanders, at all times the CCA has had the community's health and wellbeing at the forefront of decisions. All CCA regulations are by law also time limited and subject to debate and approval by the States.

"We are standing in the upcoming General Election so that is the ultimate opportunity for us to be held to account.

"We note your correspondent's comments about planned legal action so will provide no further comment."

Pictured top: Deputies Heidi Soulsby and Gavin St Pier and Dr Nicola Brink.

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