I recently got back from an amazing holiday in the Azores and am a little bemused that I have to isolate for 14 days upon my return. Now do not get me wrong – I am a huge advocate for playing it safe and for isolating new arrivals to the country. Living in a shielding household, and as an autoimmune patient, I think containing the spread of the virus is critical. In fact I think the policy of quarantine for new arrivals should have been implemented at the very beginning of the outbreak. Not months later as was the case.
My issue in this case is that the Azores have been declared Covid free. The islands are ensuring that each new arrival is tested. Travelers have the option of providing proof of a negative test, done 72 hour or less before arrival. If this is not possible travelers are tested at the airport. New arrivals then need to quarantine until they get a negative result, in my case this took 18 hours. This testing did not cost me anything. What it did ensure though was that I did not have to spend 14 days of my holiday in quarantine. This rigorous approach to testing means the Azores is better able to control the spread of the virus, and hopefully remain Covid free. It also means that its tourism sector can rebound much more quickly.
Back in the UK we have no such testing. Instead we have a flimsy track and trace system. When I landed I had not filled in my track and trace form. Instead of being compelled to do it prior to entering the country I was merely asked to do it at my convenience over the next few days. In my case being in quarantine for 14 day makes no difference. I work from home and I live in a village with great access to food delivery. For others though 14 days is a deal breaker. It can have a huge impact on business. Why not give people the option of getting tested at arrival like in the Azores? It need not be free – I know many people would gladly pay in exchange for only quarantining for a few days.
So here I am in quarantine, having traveled, via a direct flight, from a covid-free country. My parents meanwhile are away this week in the Lake District. By all accounts it is heaving with tourists. If they weren’t shielders being extremely careful and avoiding public places they would be far more likely to come home from their holiday with Covid than me. They are however not being asked to quarantine. Nor have they have been asked to fill in a track and trace form.
They will also not have to join me in quarantine upon their return. If I had brought the virus home I could quite easily infect them and they could go out shopping and spread it. Again enabling testing could prevent this.
As it is I am pretty certain I am covid-free. Having tested negative in the Azores the only place I could have caught it was on the return flight. I will just make do of my 14 days quarantine to get on with job hunting. I will continue to socialise via Zoom and do my exercise classes via YouTube. The one thing I will miss is my horse riding – good thing I did lots of it in the Azores!