The public will be as disappointed as the Government by Together Gibraltar’s latest statement which implies that Ms Hassan Nahon’s assumptions make for better public health advice than the advice of the Director of Public Health.
The fact is that the unique position of Gibraltar, in contrast to that of other, much larger countries that Ms Hassan Nahon arbitrarily compares us to, means that these other nations purchase much higher quantities of tests and so can achieve better prices. Such is the basic principle of economies of scale. Furthermore, to use her own example, in Spain multiple official government documents detail the procurement of millions of LFTs for prices between €3.10 (January 2022) and €4.50 (November 2021) per test. The price cap to the final consumer of €2.94 is fixed on the basis that the tests are subsidised by the Spanish government. In Gibraltar, tests are FULLY SUBSIDISED and are available FREE OF CHARGE to any entitled person, carried out by the GHA. The only person who will need to pay for tests is a person who wishes to test outside the auspices of the GHA.
As previously explained, the GHA purchases high-quality tests at the best possible price. Basewell act as the agent for the importation of these tests FREE OF CHARGE to the GHA, as they have been doing from the start of the pandemic when the tests and PPE were otherwise impossible to procure from other sources and the principal of Basewell was able to procure these tests when others were unable to do so. The GHA is constantly seeking the best price for the taxpayer, but for the highest quality tests, and will continue to do so. If better prices become available, they will, of course be accepted. The Government has been totally transparent on this point, as it always is, despite being repeatedly accused of the contrary by opposition parties, and provided the information when asked by local media. The only delay was in the compilation of that information, as it required the input of multiple departments, with staff already stretched to the limits.
It is therefore wrong for Ms Hassan Nahon to pretend to conclude that Gibraltarians must pay 500-800% mark-up for a test. The truth, known to all, is that in Gibraltar tests for COVID-19 are TOTALLY FREE ON THE GHA unless someone CHOOSES to pay a private service provider. The only way someone will pay for a test is through their own choice. The only exception is the requirement to test on arrival at the Rapid Test facility located outside the Gibraltar International Airport, at a cost of £25 for GHA cardholders and £30 for non-cardholders. It is exactly the same as choosing to pay for private medical care instead of attending via the GHA. It is not within the Government’s remit to dictate to private service providers the prices that they can charge for their private medical services, especially when the government is providing the equivalent service at no charge at all.
The most concerning aspect of Ms Hasson Nahon’s tirade, however, is her insinuation that her own amateur assessment is of greater scientific value than the advice of the Director of Public Health. The Government strongly maintains that the only person qualified to make public health decisions for Gibraltar is the Director of Public Health. It is not for politicians, much less for someone as ill-informed on such issues as Ms Hassan Nahon, to question that advice simply because it does not fit their agenda. The advice of the Director of Public Health remains that Gibraltar is best served by continuing a state-run system of COVID-19 testing which enables us to better record the spread of the pandemic through our community but that this will likely change in the future in coming weeks or months.
Minister for Health, the Hon Samantha Sacramento, said: ‘True to Ms Hassan Nahon’s tradition, she has twisted, exaggerated and stripped the context from the situation in order to support her unsustainable and illogical arguments. All she achieves is to demonstrate that she just doesn’t understand the difference between a mark-up and a subsidy. The truth is that everyone who resides and works in Gibraltar has free tests available to them under the auspices of the GHA. This Government stands by the expert advice of the Director of Public Health in setting Gibraltar’s strategy for testing. Ms Hassan Nahon’s amateur and egotistic tirade is more fitting of an internet conspiracy theorist than a serious politician.’