Tuesday, September 28, 2021
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Foreign holidays feed the Covid fat cats

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WHEN I asked my younger son whether he and his family had to take Covid tests before travelling to France, he replied, crossly: ‘We are going for two weeks of swimming, lazing on the beach and relaxing, not worrying about whether we have to have tests.’ 

That’s me put in my place, then. But while some people who would normally travel abroad, such as myself, have decided to stay at home this year, it seems that nothing will separate many members of the middle class from their foreign holidays. As I write, friends, colleagues and family are in Italy, Crete, Cyprus, Croatia, France and Greece, in spite of all the restrictions, tests and quarantining required for the pleasure of sunning themselves on a hot beach. 

While the Taliban rampages through Afghanistan, foreign secretary Dominic Raab is on a ‘luxury break’, as the newspapers have it, in Crete. Piers Morgan, who has railed incessantly against the unvaccinated and unmasked, is even further away, in Antigua, for the second time this year. 

For me at least, going abroad at the moment is simply not worth all the ridiculous and expensive tests required. Nor do I wish to keep the highly lucrative Covid industry going, or to add to its considerable profits. 

Vaccine-maker Pfizer made $3.5billion profit from Covid in the first three months of this year, and the forecast is for $26billion to be made by the end of 2021. Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, one of the developers of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and widely hailed as a saint, is likely to receive a £22million windfall when the company she created in 2016 floats on the US stock market later this year. 

As vaccinations go ever further down the age range, the greater the profits will be. 

At the moment, you have to be fully vaccinated to go to France. My son and his family were not allowed to go until their 18-year-old daughter, my granddaughter, had been double-jabbed. Whatever you may think of the suitability of the vaccine for teenagers, there was no way round it. Unvaccinated children over 12 and under 18 would have to present a negative test result taken less than 48 hours before travel, never mind that they are probably completely healthy and have never had the virus or been anywhere near it. If you want to go to Italy, you need to have a negative test and must also call the Covid-19 helpline when you arrive. The NHS card, apparently, is not taken as proof of vaccination. 

None of this necessarily applies to the jet set who can fly around in their private planes without any need for tests, vaccine certificates or self-isolation. They don’t have to check in at airports or join a lengthy queue while their vaccination/PCR test status is checked. Nor do they have to wear masks while on board their planes, as lesser mortals do. 

So, rich celebrities who continue to fly around the globe are putting two fingers up to the rest of the populace who have no choice but to abide by the restrictions or stay at home. 

What it comes down to is that at the moment, those who travel abroad are not only keeping the whole Covid industry alive and making money hand over fist, but making sure restrictions are retained for the rest of us. For the more that people fly in and out of the country, the more we are warned that they could be bringing in or taking out a variant, whether or not this has any basis in truth. 

Hence all the tests and protective measures, so-called. 

Just out of curiosity, I did a quick online questionnaire for HALO, widely advertised as being the ‘best spit test on the market.’ I was advised that one double-vaccinated adult would need to purchase a HALO double pack for £159 to travel to France. And that was just answering the questions for one adult. Four such tests would add £636 to the cost of the holiday. 

And at £159, the HALO test is not even the most expensive. A small company called Mayfair GP, which is government-approved, is charging £399 per test. 

But are the tests necessary in the first place? David Livermore, a medical microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline on August 10 that they are not. He said: ‘There is little justification for the present level of pre- or post-travel testing.

The tests may be completely needless for travellers, but they are very good news for the providers as there is a huge mark-up on them. Professor Livermore reckons that the tests should cost no more than £20, and even at that price the manufacturers would make a profit. But it is all lovely jubbly, as Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter of Only Fools and Horses might say, and getting lovelier all the time. 

Don’t expect our government, or any other government, to take notice of those who question the necessity for the tests, or to lift travel restrictions any time soon. So long as people insist on travelling abroad while countries are traffic-lighted as red, amber or green, these tests will not only remain but will very likely become even more onerous and expensive. Why kill a goose that keeps laying such large golden eggs? 

The only protest we can make just now is to holiday at home and not add to the huge profits presently being made by the Covid companies for the sake of a fortnight in the sun. 

I am certainly not queueing up at an airport or forking out for any of the expensive and currently compulsory tests. I will stay put and save my money for – hopefully – better times ahead.

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Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson is an author and journalist. lizhodgkinson.com

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