It’s been nine months since I last saw my mum. Having been used to monthly visits, covid measures have prevented me – like so many others – from spending precious time with family.
Taking precautions with covid
I live in Spain, my mum lives in a care home in Oxfordshire. My last visit was a week after her 90th birthday, which I missed, thanks to being stuck in quarantine.
As I write this, I am doing a further period of enforced isolation, though this time for ten days, not 14. I say ten days, but as the count doesn’t start till the day after arrival, it’s really 11. Leaving me three days out of my two week trip to visit mum, by appointment only, and time limited.
I don’t mind the precautions the care home is taking, even the daily testing. In fact, I welcome them. I rather wish the whole country, not least the government, were half as cautious over covid.
Covid travel measures
I thought long and hard before making the decision to visit the UK, weighing up convenience, cost, and safety.
It was anticipated that on “Freedom day” in June, many covid restrictions would be lifted. Instead, any revisions were postponed for four more weeks. With Spain on the government’s amber list, and no immediate signs of that changing, travelling to England was going to mean isolation. But the alternative could mean waiting until after the new Freedom Day – expected on 19 July.
With quarantine measures expected to be dropped from amber list countries, this could mean a considerable increase in demand for flights – both into and out of the UK – and no doubt a hike in prices. With more people, comes more risk, even for those of us fully vaccinated, and on balance, I chose to come earlier and quarantine.
Although my decision has cut the time I will be able to spend visiting mum, you can’t put a price on feeling safe. Though there seem to be plenty of companies willing to take our money. My pre-flight test in Spain was quick, painless, and relatively cheap. For 40 euros, I was tested by a laboratory assistant in a white coat, and had my results fully documented in an email within two hours.
I have just posted the first of two UK tests – self-administered – during quarantine. The two tests combined cost me £175, and all that is guaranteed is that I will have the results within 48 hours of the provider receiving them in the post.
I was officially allowed to break quarantine in order to go to the nearest priority post box to return my test. The logic of that escapes me, but then the logic of many of the government’s covid measures have that same effect.
With social distancing about to be scrapped, and the wearing of masks left up to the individual, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s perfectly safe to return to normal life. But will the British public continue to wear masks when the matter is left to their own discretion?
Wearing masks has always been about protecting others, not ourselves. Behavioural scientist, Professor Stephen Reicher told the BBC, “I agree that people have to exercise responsibility – but not just personal responsibility, social responsibility”.
Speaking of circumstances when personal freedom affects the freedom of others, he compared mask wearing to driving. He added, “my freedom to drive fast affects your safety”, adding that the freedom not to wear a mask similarly affects the safety of others.
Speaking for transport industry union Unite, Bobby Morton said any lifting of requirements for the wearing of face coverings on public transport would be “an act of gross negligence”.
Covid is not like the flu
The new health secretary, Sajid Javid, seems keen to put freedom and wealth before health. He does know he’s not chancellor anymore, doesn’t he? By all accounts, we all now have to “learn to live” with covid – like we live with the flu.
But covid is not the flu, and nobody, to my knowledge, has been seriously ill for months on end, or suffered long-term damaging effects, from “long flu”. I also don’t remember the entire population being recommended to be vaccinated against the flu or having to self-isolate.
The fact that covid is spreading amongst the younger, unvaccinated population, or that case numbers are the highest they have been for many months, is nothing for us to be concerned about apparently, at least according to Javid or the prime minister.
Despite rising hospitalisations, they point to the low number of daily deaths, comparatively speaking, as if that is the only measure worth consideration.
It may be the case that the vaccination programme is having an impact on the relationship between case numbers and deaths. We certainly hope so. But isn’t it too soon to know for sure? Have the government given up any pretence and decided to carry out its earlier, and supposedly soundly rejected herd immunity policy?
Learning to live with covid
Though not quite what the government had in mind, I am learning to live with covid measures. Measures that will restrict my movement, my proximity to others and my freedoms. I shall continue to wear a mask, not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of others.
We are going to have to learn to live with covid, say the government – even as it mutates and becomes more dangerous. Not easy, but perhaps not as tough as learning to live with this government – even as it mutates and becomes more dangerous.