Island divided on opening borders

Has the Civil Contingencies Authority made the right decision to allow people who have had two Covid vaccinations to come into the island from 1 July without testing or self-isolation? Zoe Fitch and Emily Hubert gauged public opinion in the street and online

ISLANDERS are divided over whether the Civil Contingencies Authority has made the right decision to press ahead with opening the island’s borders to fully vaccinated people from 1 July.

More than 100 people in Town and on the Bridge were asked by the Guernsey Press yesterday for their views on removing restrictions for those people and many more took to social media to have their say on the decision.

Most who stopped to respond in the street felt that now was not the right time to welcome people into the Bailiwick without a test or isolation period, even if they were fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 Vaccine. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29694979)

Several raised concerns that 1 July was too soon, given the deteriorating situation in the UK, and others believed arrival tests should still be carried out at the ports.

Even those keen for borders to reopen wondered if the timing was too hasty, and whether 1 July had been chosen purely to allow tourists to the island for the summer rather than because it was safe for them to come here.

One said: ‘If this goes wrong I’m not blaming [director of Public Health Dr Nicola] Brink or the others who have worked their butts off to keep the island safe. I will blame [chief minister Deputy Peter] Ferbrache because he said that we can’t be fortress Guernsey and we have to keep the borders open.’

He said he would have preferred previous CCA chairman Deputy Gavin St Pier, who is sceptical about early opening, still to be in charge.

Others, however, could not wait for borders to reopen so they could reunite with their families and friends or leave the island.

Some said they were not particularly bothered because they would not be travelling anyway.

A pharmacist said that opening the island would help to tackle staff shortages for his business and other sectors suffering from a shortage of staff.

Others were fearful of the rising cases of the Delta variant in the Common Travel Area, Europe and elsewhere in the world.

In an online poll on www.guernseypress.com, 54% of more than 2,000 votes said the decision was the right one while 46% said it was not.

On our Instagram poll, seen by some 1,400 accounts, 69% said it was the right move, and 31% said it was not.

The CCA confirmed on Wednesday that the move to having a ‘blue corridor’ of travel from the CTA would go ahead.

This means that anyone who had both doses of the vaccine two weeks prior to travel could enter the Bailiwick from the CTA without the need to test for Covid-19 or self-isolate.

Opening up is too soon for some but overdue for others

ISLANDERS are torn between ‘getting back to normal’ and maintaining the Bailiwick’s Covid- and restriction-free status that it has held for the majority of the pandemic.

Dozens of people were spoken to yesterday following the news that the Civil Contingencies Authority was opening up a blue travel corridor from 1 July for fully vaccinated individuals from the Common Travel Area to enter the Bailiwick, without the need to self-isolate or be tested.

In the Guernsey Press survey, 41 were in favour of the current border restriction relaxation while 46 were against.

Ten people said the CCA had the right idea, but was implementing it too soon, while four people said all arrivals should be tested.

Martin Brehaut thought the relaxation was not a good idea.

‘It’s a bit early and not everybody is vaccinated yet. We should hold off for another month. Until they’ve vaccinated every adult there’s the risk of going backwards.’

Brandon Le Prevost held a different opinion. ‘They should definitely open, especially with the vaccine rates,’ he said.

‘Guernsey needs to get back into the world, things need to start getting back to normal and I want to travel. I’ve got mine [vaccine appointments] booked in, but once I’ve got that, I’m off.’

Andrew Pinsard said absolutely borders should reopen.

Andrew Pinsard, left, with Mladen Stolinchev. (Picture by Cassidy Jones, 29693090)

‘A lot of people here haven’t seen their families for a year and a half,’ he said.

‘I think we’re going to have to live with this virus for a long time.

‘Now the island has a large amount of people vaccinated, they’ve got to open them sometime. Those who haven’t [been jabbed] it’s got to be their choice.

‘The biggest risk is the hospital becoming overwhelmed.’

Despite having both Covid jabs, 79-year-old former taxi driver David Shearer had no desire to travel this year.

David Shearer, 79. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29693107)

‘We’ve booked a holiday next May, but even then it’s a flexible booking so we can cancel it if the Covid situation still doesn’t improve.’

He had some concerns about the risks posed to unvaccinated people if the borders opened and there was no testing requirement.

Jason Mann, 18, said: ‘My dad’s planning on going to the UK to see the family in August and, hopefully, I’m going with him. But to be honest, I think they should still test people on arrival.’

Jason Mann, 18. (Picture by Cassidy Jones, 29693087)

Michael Ogier shared a similar view, questioning the reason not to test common travel area arrivals.

He speculated that it was to do with cost.

Michael Ogier, left, with Rachel Or. (Picture by Cassidy Jones, 29693084)

‘They don’t want to charge tourists because then they won’t come, but what’s going to cost more: testing on arrival, or going into lockdown again and giving out furlough payments? I don’t think tourists will bring in enough for the risk.’

What the CCA said...

When announcing its commitment to 1 July, the CCA said it was time the Bailiwick began to live responsibly with Covid-19.

The probability of a third lockdown or of health services becoming overwhelmed remained very low, a spokesman said.

Thanks to Guernsey’s high vaccination levels and effective measures to detect and manage cases, the risks to the community were low enough to enable Guernsey to live with Covid.

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