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SUE WILSON

OPINION: When will Brits in Spain feel brave enough to risk a trip ‘back home’?

After months of lockdown we are all keen to visit our loved ones 'back home'. This week, Sue Wilson examines the dilemma facing those considering a trip back to the UK.

OPINION: When will Brits in Spain feel brave enough to risk a trip 'back home'?
A masked KLM cabin crew walks through an empty hall at Heathrow. Photo: AFP

A few weeks ago, when the end of lockdown was a distant dream, I wrote about having mixed feelings. The excitement of seeing friends and family was tinged with nervousness about our safety and wellbeing.

With lockdown coming to an end soon, coronavirus deaths almost non-existent and infections at a low level, are we feeling braver now?

The introduction of quarantine measures in the UK last week has focused many of us on when we might risk a long-awaited visit. The prospect of having to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival has pretty much guaranteed that even the keenest of us will delay imminent plans.

The question is “when will it be safe”? Desperate as we are to see our parents, children, grandparents or grandchildren, would we be putting ourselves, or even worse, our family members at risk?

Apart from family visits, many people have been forced to cancel pre-booked holidays and are debating whether holidays are totally off the menu this year. Rather by necessity than choice, the option of foreign travel has largely lost its appeal. This year could turn out to be that of the staycation, or at least sticking much closer to home.

As we become acclimatised to life outdoors again, there are many adjustments to be made.  Most people are keeping a safe distance, wearing masks and foregoing physical contact outside of their own families.

However, it’s not all bad news. Living in a tourist village, I’m enjoying having the place to ourselves, free of the usual summer crowds and traffic – a pleasure normally reserved for the winter months.

I feel bad for local businesses struggling to survive – we locals must do what we can to safely support them. However, should the restaurant and café tables stay two metres apart on a permanent basis, that’s fine with me!


Restaurants have opened up but with social distancing measures in place. Photo: AFP

 

In another week’s time, we will be enjoying the ‘new normality’ here in Spain – the closest thing we’ll have to our old normality for some time.

With constant changes to what’s allowed, as we’ve moved through the de-escalation phase system, it hasn’t always been easy to keep track. However, compared to the complicated UK measures, it’s been a doddle. The devolved nations aren’t even following the same ‘plan’ as the government.

Whereas Spain has made changes to restrictions on a fortnightly basis, the UK gives the impression of making up measures on the hoof. The oft-repeated phrase “following the science” seems to have been dropped from the daily coronavirus briefings, replaced by the unspoken “following the politics”.

According to a former government scientist, the delay in locking down the UK caused perhaps 25,000 unnecessary deaths.

The fear is that the British government is compounding that error by removing lockdown measures too soon. While other European countries have only lifted restrictions in the face of low infection and death rates, Britain still has too high levels of both, with the daily death toll regularly higher than all other EU countries combined.

The timing of UK quarantine is, therefore, difficult to comprehend and seemingly difficult to justify. The government claims that the 14-day self-isolation of visitors from abroad will help stop the virus spread.

Yet, visitors are likely to be arriving from countries with considerably lower infection levels. It would seem that other countries agree, and measures to prevent British tourists from visiting EU countries could be in place for a while.

The British quarantine measures would, perhaps, be better accepted if they were more comprehensive. They comprise little more than an instruction to stay in one place for two weeks. Visitors are not even having their temperature taken on arrival at airports. They are being advised not to take crowded public transport, though many travellers will have no other option.

Throughout this crisis, and with the knowledge that mistakes have been made in Spain too, we’ve been grateful to be safe here.

We’ve watched in horror at the British government’s mismanagement of every aspect of this crisis and been appalled by the resulting death toll. It is difficult to highlight a single thing the British government has done right. We can only guess what that means for the country going forward, and the prospects of a damaging second wave.

Post-lockdown fears that we’ve largely put to bed in Spain still exist when considering a UK visit. We are torn between a desperate need to be with family members and a genuine fear for our own, and their safety.

For now, we can only watch, wait and hope for the situation in the UK improves. No doubt we’ll continue to monitor daily death rates, occasionally check flight availability and prices, and keep our family conversations virtual.

I am desperate to visit my mum in her care home, but I’m not going to the UK until I feel it’s safe, or at least safer than it is now. I cannot take the risk, and mum wouldn’t want me to either. The UK government quarantine may be ineffective and badly timed – the quarantine in mum’s care home is neither.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain

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Member comments

  1. I went back to the UK anyway as I was desperate to see my family. They did not seem to be doing anything to impose the quarantine, but the lack of mask wearing there made me feel that people living in the UK are of much more risk to us living in Spain than vice versa!

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Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

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Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

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Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

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