The pandemic is not over and whilst more people are getting their booster (3rd) shots of the vaccine, many more people around the world aren't. This isn't just because they're just anti vaxxers, but because the vaccine isn't available to them, such as living in rural townships in Southern Africa, in environments where people don't have access to running water or electricity, can't socially distance due to overcrowding, yet travel into the towns and cities for work in shops, restaurants and people's homes.
When covid was first identified the end of 2019, we were planning our gradual relocation from Dubai to the UK, it started with moving the cat and dog over in February 2020, with me returning to Dubai in March for a month to entertain a friend and her husband and Peter's sister and friend who had booked visits out to see us before we relocated, the plan then was for me to fly back and forth month to month and Peter to come to the UK when work permitted.
Covid scuppered those plans and after rescheduling a couple of cancelled flights with BA, I finally managed to get back to the UK, the last BA flight out of Dubai, the first day of lockdown. Dubai closed its borders behind me, but not after they'd had me sign a form to declare if I wanted to come back in the foreseeable future, I'd be required to enter mandatory quarantine at my own expense.
My MIL had been house and pet sitting and had to return to her home, so I had to leave Dubai. I didn't see Peter again until the start of August, when he was finally given permission to leave and return and I was given permission to re enter Dubai a few weeks later.
On arrival in the UK for me, Day 1 of the first lockdown, I arrived at Terminal 5 Heathrow, the queue for passports was long, all being manually checked and a leaflet handed out to me about how to isolate and for how long. On my flight I had to wear a mask, the plane was full. Some passengers wore full PPE as did the airline staff. Food and drinks were served as usual. I had no way of getting home, so a friend collected me, we wore masks, socially distanced and I stayed in her spare room. The following morning, she drove me to Watford train station. The trains were running but there were no ticket or platform staff, so with my case, I worked out to get to Northampton, changed to Birmingham then down to Malvern and a short walk home, where I dropped my case, picked up a shopping trolley and walked to Lidl to shop for the next 10 days. My friend called in to collect Bob for a daily walk, but no one checked up on me.
When Peter arrived in the UK in August, I'd then managed to purchase a car online, brand new from a garage in Birmingham. The garage were able to deliver because the receptionist drove down and had her sister follow on in her own car, because they lived together. They were allowed to travel further a field by then and it was their first day out and they were quite excited about the Starbucks drive thru now being open.
I drove to Heathrow T3 to collect Peter, to discover it was closed and re parked at T2. It was such a relief to see him after so long. We both had to quarantine for 10 days. He had to have a PCR test prior to leaving Dubai. Peter had to fill in a passenger locator form prior to departure from Dubai.
During his stay they introduced PCR testing for flying. The PCR tests had to be conducted with a certain lab and due to the timing of Peter's flight his options were Manchester or Belfast. He ended up with a NHS drive thru, which was accepted, but I had to drive home from Heathrow when I dropped him off via a lab in Bristol, at a cost of £150, before I flew out 3 days later.
On arrival in Dubai I had to have a PCR test and isolate at home until our results came through within 72 hours and had to download an app on the phone.
Getting PCR test in Dubai before leaving home was easier, booked online, turned up within an hours window and you stayed in the car to be tested, results came to your phone within 24 hours. The tests were throat and both nostrils. On arrival back in the UK, I collected my car from valet parking at T2 and drove home to isolate again for 10 days.
I travelled to Northern Ireland to stay with my son and his wife as my house sitters had arrived early and the wife was shielding, so I ended up with no where to stay. Birmingham and Belfast airports were like ghost towns
Travelling out for Christmas 2020 required the same procedure as above, however when I arrived, Peter was in Saudi and the borders closed on him over night, meaning he spent Christmas over there while I stayed in a hotel on the beach for a couple of nights. He was home for New Years and we walked to view the fireworks at the Marina, from near our house.
I worked for TV production with the European Tour in early December, we were required to mask wear and socially distance. As I went home at night, I was in a different bubble from everyone else. In January I joined the tour in Abu Dhabi where I had to PCR to cross the border and PCR on arrival and go to my hotel for 24 hours until the results came through. Then I had to stay in my bubble for 4 days on and off the course. I had to PCR test daily, which tied in with my flight to the UK 48 hours later. I left Peter in Dubai until my next trip and flew back to Birmingham, caught the train to Malvern and said goodbye to the house sitters who were waiting in their car, on the drive, for me to arrive.
I had an exemption letter from isolating as I'd been in a bubble, filled in the passenger locator form and 2 days later my letter was revoked and I was told to isolate for 10 days, which I was doing anyway other than walking the dog. By this stage I'd had both vaccine does, 3 weeks apart.
I headed back out to Dubai in April, my son and his wife had travelled over from Northern Ireland to collect the dog and the neighbours looked after the cat. I flew 2 days after the last lockdown, via Terminal 2 and had to catch the train and spend the night before my flight in an airport hotel. I found a local testing lab to have my PCR done before flying. I also had to apply for permission to enter.
On arrival in Dubai another PCR on arrival and isolate until results came through. Then came the bad news. There were no flights between Dubai and the UK and Dubai was put on the red list. At this point, we'd moved out of our villa, had our furniture shipped and Peter had taken early retirement. We were homeless and stranded. We booked a hotel for 2 weeks in the Marina with the intention of having a couple of weeks fun time, but realised we were stuck there until June 14th at the earliest before the first flight out, which we were booked on.
Then all of a sudden there was a flight to Birmingham via Amsterdam on June 3rd. So we booked, arranged PCR test, filled in passenger locator forms and booked and paid £2400 for mandatory hotel quarantine.
We were concerned we might get stranded in Amsterdam, but it was costing us money to stay in Dubai anyway, so we either took this flight and risked not being allowed in or we stayed put for another 2 weeks minimum. It was 11th October before Dubai were removed from the red list.
At this point people were travelling via other countries before arrival in the UK and enjoying a 2 week holiday on a beach somewhere then just flying into the Uk for 10 days isolation from an amber country. In the meantime people were flying from the UK to the same destinations for their holidays and covid started spreading further, mutating more and more countries going on the red list and people started complaining about the extra costs that they hadn't factored into their trip. Dubai was on the red list due to it being a hub. At this point in time, Dubai had one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and lowest cases. We'd both been double vaccinated, my age group wasn't being offered the jab in the UK until June/July and Peter would've only had one vaccine by that point if we'd been in the UK and every trip we'd made to the UK was entering a country with the highest death rates from Covid in Europe and most of the world.
Our arrival at Birmingham airport was a traumatic experience. We identified ourselves in the red route with all our documents and were informed that we'd been identified as a risk to the UK, had to sign a form and agree to staying in the Crowne Plaza for the next 11 days or we would be arrested and fined.
Border control and Home Office staff acted despicably towards us, wouldn't answer questions, made a huge show of escorting us to the 'prison bus' wouldn't answer any questions, barked instructions at us and had me in tears even before I left the airport.
Hotel quarantine was depressing, 11 days in a small room. The food was good, but repetitive, hotel staff were kind. I spent every day in the room and managed 10.000 steps a day. Peter was collected daily by his handler for 15 mins in the exercise yard. Our security were dreadful and arrived for their shifts 5 in a car, no masks on, and took their fag and meal breaks in groups outside our window.
The irony was we were 4 hours unsupervised in Schipol airport, we flew with amber country passengers who only had to isolate on arrival. We received no support from track and trace, just a pile of paperwork to read through and eventually got through to someone from a volunteer group who was able to give me a listening ear because no one could answer any of our questions. We had mandatory PCR tests on day 2 and day 8.
We heard some horrendous stories of poor hotel accommodation and below standard food that was delivered cold, wasn't halal and just left outside hotel rooms and had to be eaten cold after sunset due to it being Ramadan. Also tests were going missing and people were being forced to stay in quarantine a further 11 days. Also people were stuck on buses for several hours and driven miles away from the airport then forced to find their own ways back to complete the rest of their journey.
We did get a call from track and trace informing us we'd had close contact with a passenger on our flight from Amsterdam who had since tested positive for covid and we were to return to our home and isolate for a further 6 days. We explained we were in mandatory quarantine in a hotel and were prevented from leaving for a further 6 days, at which point we were informed that if we failed to isolate the police would be involved. My response was 'bring it on'
I've yet to write about the mandatory quarantine because a lot of people claimed we were attention seeking, that if we chose to travel we deserved what we got and just plain tough luck. I did physically write a diary, I may type up one day but for now, I'm still struggling with what was an illegal imprisonment in my opinion.
It's also why I won't be travelling again anytime soon. I've written this at the end of November, as the Red List is reintroduced and travel is banned from South Africa due to the new variant and other countries are introducing new measures. I'd hate to have to be finding somewhere that carries out PCR tests in a country where I don't speak the language. Portugal have declared a State of Calamity.
It has cost us 1000's of pounds on top of flights to travel just to see one another over a 15 month period. We missed out on being with our children, watching our first grandchild grow. Now with another grandchild and Peter now being retired, we can't afford to risk getting locked out of our own country again.
I've recently been travelling back and forth to Northern Ireland visiting my new grandson. I LFT test before and after. I'm desperate for Australia to reopen its borders to tourists so we can see our son who lives there, it's been almost 3 years since I last saw him and I need to visit Germany sometime soon to visit close friends, but until more people get vaccinated and infection rates fall, I won't be going anywhere. I turned down work opportunities in Dubai in November and have cancelled plans for more work in January. We'd even considered combining it with a trip to South Africa, our former home.
I know a lot of people who have grabbed the chance of a foreign holiday when they've been able to, they've arranged PCR tests and lateral flows on their return. A lot of these people are now complaining about the additional costs as from today December 6th. How their holiday was ruined with the sudden changes, the panic and costs of getting a negative PCR test, the fear of being stuck abroad at their own cost, missing time off work and having to 'cancel Christmas plans' as they didn't think the new rules would effect them and had to stay longer to wait for PCR results. I have NO sympathy for them. They've knew our story, they didn't think it would apply to them.
I've friends who have been separated from loved ones for 2 years or more now, who have taken the risk for a long weekend and I have every bit of empathy for them as they've travelled. At least they've had somewhere to stay should they not be able to get home.
Have you travelled during covid? Was it for work? To see loved ones? Or just for a holiday?