I’m in quarantine, aka: on the government’s bad footing. I had the audacity to go to France and not have the £ 2,000 that British Airways wanted our flight back to be a day earlier. I know I know. There is about as much sympathy for people who choose to go abroad during a global pandemic as there is for Gavin Williamson. But like many other Brits we booked this holiday a year ago and couldn’t get our money back – plus we didn’t want to our money, we were so desperate to escape the UK and all its multiple government failures.
Quarantine was a risk worth taking, we thought, as we strapped on our masks and headed to a remote part of southwestern France in a department that had recorded all three (yes, three) coronavirus cases the week before. We settled into the farm, only left twice to go to the supermarket, and had a really lovely time that couldn’t even be spoiled by the Grant Shapps mess announcing, very late on a Thursday night, that we were in our forties. would be quarantined at 4 a.m. the Saturday. Or did he mean Sunday? Like many of us, the Minister of Transport seemed baffled by the decision he had made, issuing a series of contradicting tweets, before a member of his team who understood the 24-hour clock did ‘intervenes and confirms that it was indeed Saturday.
We missed the deadline by a few hours, returning from our isolated farm in a department virtually untouched by Covid-19, in London, a city that had just reported nearly 700 new cases. Were we in quarantine to protect ourselves, I wondered? Meanwhile, travelers arriving hours earlier from a seemingly plague-filled Paris were free to walk and, most importantly, to walk their dogs. “You know,” the woman at passport control (when we finally met her) said, “you’re not allowed out at all. Not even to walk your dog.
“We don’t have a dog,” replied my puzzled 7-year-old. The nice lady smiled and explained that we had to grab some food on the way back from the airport, and if we needed anything else after that point… well, good luck to us, good trip and all that. At this point, I was starting to feel bad – if only because we had been in line at passport control for a while, planes full of people from exempt countries mingling with people from quarantined countries. , social distancing impossible due to the large number of passengers compared to the four border forces personnel on duty. Extremely complex passenger tracking forms posed problems even for the most educated travelers, which only added to the waiting time. It was very different arriving in France, where we cleared customs and left the airport within 20 minutes of landing.
And now, like hundreds of thousands of other Brits who wanted a bit of a respite from the ludicrous handling of this pandemic, we are under house arrest, fear of a criminal record hanging over our heads because we have keep on going. vacation. (I know vacations aren’t essential, but do we really want to live in a country so useless that it basically has to be a criminal offense?) And if this all sounds confusing coming from a supposedly libertarian Tory government – why not test on entry like almost all other countries do? – so I have to remember that this is also a government whose “world-beating” test and traceability system, which was promised to us at the beginning of June, is still absolutely not visible. Of course we should have seen the writing on the wall as the words ‘beat the world’ were spoken, because here is a government that seems to view this whole situation as the World Cup, rather than a pandemic without a cure. which is piling up misery on millions.
Like so many other decisions made by this lot, quarantine is a brutal instrument used in an attempt to compensate for its many failures. The plight of vacationers may elicit little sympathy from those of you who have chosen to stay home this summer, but it is symptomatic of something much bigger, and that is Boris’s will. et al to pass the responsibility for their incompetence to someone else. but themselves: PHE; Ofqual; officials; and now even the people who elected them. “Only travel if you are satisfied with an unexpected 14-day quarantine if necessary,” Shapps tweeted this week. “I speak from experience!” (I’d be fascinated to know if Shapps spent his flight home from Spain last month, caught early so he could start his 14 days of isolation as quickly as possible). Meanwhile, as our eyes turn to an apparent second wave in an evil and dangerous Europe, we can for a moment forget the problem in our own backyard: how hard it is to quarantine a cat you let out of the bag a long time ago.