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UK exempts care staff from migrant health tax

AFP
LONDON
The British government on Thursday announced that foreign care workers would be exempt from a charge imposed on migrants to fund the health service, after an outcry sparked by the coronavirus outbreak.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had defended the immigration health surcharge as recently as Wednesday, saying it raised much-needed funds for the state-run National Health Service (NHS).
But Keir Starmer, the main opposition Labour leader, condemned the levy at a time when so many foreign NHS and social care workers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 response.
He quoted a letter from the Doctors’ Association, an industry body, saying the tax was “a gross insult to all”.
A spokesman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said all NHS and care staff, including porters and cleaners, will now be exempt. “The purpose of the NHS surcharge is to benefit the NHS, help to care for the sick and save lives,” he said.
“NHS and care workers from abroad who are granted visas are doing this already by the fantastic contribution which they make.” Starmer said the decision was “a victory for common decency and the right thing to do”.
Noting that it came just hours before the weekly tribute to frontline staff, he added: “We cannot clap our carers one day and then charge them to use our NHS the next.” The decision is the second change of policy towards foreign workers in 24 hours.