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Border checks in spotlight after passengers not tested

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JERSEY’S border-testing policy was again in the spotlight yesterday as the government faced criticism for failing to test a group of ferry passengers when they arrived in the Island.

Commodore Clipper

The government is to review arrangements for Covid-19 tests after 21 people were not tested after disembarking from the Commodore Clipper service on Monday evening. The government subsequently said that all the passengers were tested yesterday and insisted there had been no chance of anyone slipping through the net.

Around ten private vehicles were on board Monday’s sailing of the Clipper, which has been used predominantly as a freight link throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of those on the boat were Islanders Jez and Jacqui Smith, who had been stranded in Europe since lockdown measures were introduced, spending the ensuing period in France. The couple were keen to return to Jersey as soon as travel links resumed, only to face a series of setbacks.

News that the Island’s borders were to reopen came just as Condor Ferries confirmed it would not be able to operate sailings to St Malo as a result of an industrial dispute involving French port employees.

Anxious to get home to see their family, Mr and Mrs Smith crossed from Caen to Portsmouth with their campervan and, after a 24-hour wait, were able to board the Jersey-bound Clipper on Monday morning.

‘We knew people in Jersey were worried about opening the borders and we made sure that we did everything right by filling in the form for testing on arrival,’ said Mrs Smith.

‘As we approached, the captain said that there wouldn’t be testing on arrival and that we’d have to ring the helpline, but then the person answering the helpline said we would be tested. We were shattered when we got off and were told it wouldn’t be possible.’

Testing had been taking place for passengers who had arrived on the earlier fast service from Poole, but was not available for passengers on the Clipper.

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‘We knew we’d have to self-isolate, and wanted to get tested and get the results as quickly as possible, but it was a fiasco,’ added Mrs Smith, whose family in Jersey include two grandchildren and her 91-year-old mother.

After further calls to the helpline yesterday, Mr and Mrs Smith were given a 3pm appointment at the drive-through testing facility at Jersey Airport.

Tony Moretta, who was seconded from his role at Digital Jersey to serve as programme director for Covid-19 testing and tracing, said Islanders should not be concerned about people arriving and not being tested.

‘We have the details of everyone who comes to Jersey on a ferry or plane, and all those on the Clipper were contacted and given appointments for tests,’ he said. ‘Because of the small numbers, there was capacity to process those tests on-Island, so the wait for results should be the same as if they had been tested on Monday.’

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Mr Moretta apologised to the affected passengers about the lack of clarity regarding when they should expect to be tested.

Prior to the borders reopening on 3 July, the Clipper had only been available for essential travel, but subsequently a small number of other passengers have also been accommodated.

A government spokesperson said that arrangements for future travel on the Clipper were being reviewed, after which the service may no longer be available to non-essential travellers.

Mr Moretta said that while the review was being carried out, passengers arriving on the Clipper would be tested at the Harbour for at least the next three days.

A spokesman for Condor said: ‘Our responsibility is to provide safe passage to and from Jersey and the testing regime in place on arrival in St Helier is rightly a matter for the government, not for Condor.’

After positive test results for two arriving passengers were announced earlier on Monday, bringing the Island’s tally of known active Covid-19 cases to six, no new cases were reported yesterday, with 409 tests recorded as negative.

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