LAST week I had a house call by a Covid officer to check compliance with post-holiday quarantine following my return from the Balearics. After a lovely holiday in a destination on the green list which later turned amber, my punishment consisted of ten days’ forced isolation in three rooms (including lavatory) covering 500 square feet and no outside space.
As an unvaccinated Untouchable, I looked on in envy at my double-poked friends who returned to London being able to move about freely and my travel companion who’d be showing off her tan. I wistfully imagined the glamorous parties they’d be attending whilst I’d be limited to surfing murder mystery reruns on ITV with a slightly acidic bottle of rose.
But be careful what you envy, ladies . . .
Two such double-jabbed friends, both travelling back to the UK from amber list countries, Spain and Denmark, on different budget airlines, were pinged and ordered to self-isolate on their return. It turned out someone on both of their flights had tested positive for the virus.
Now, neither of them is dumb enough to have the NHS track and trace app but their details were taken from the forms they were required to complete to board the planes bound for home.
So it turns out that getting the poke is no guarantee of regaining your freedom at all, and definitely not any kind of insurance policy for risk-free travel abroad. This was in spite of the fact that both of them, having taken tests within 48 hours of boarding and on day 2 after landing in UK arrivals, tested negative for the virus. The one returning from Denmark was fortuitously pinged after day 2, which she interpreted to mean that her isolation could be shortened to 7 days. Both friends were also required to take a test on day 8 of isolation (so in her case after it was over), and unlike myself, their Untouchable counterpart, could not do a day 5 test to get out early for good behaviour.
Everyone keeps telling me that as of August 16 the double-vaccinated will be able to move around freely regardless of whether they have been pinged. But as in this context ‘pinged’ refers to the app presumably the new freedom pass will not apply to the situation both of my friends found themselves in. Such is the absurdity that will prevail in the approaching mid-month holiday peak that there will be no way to ascertain whether it is worth travelling to a green-list rock in the Atlantic or going the whole hog and risking a turn from amber to red, with consequent pay-to-play prison sentence on return.
I wonder whether the government (which I no longer spell with a capital ‘G’ as I do not recognise its legitimacy) justifies all of this on the premise that people who dare to go on holiday must be treated as putrid receptacles of contagion and thereby do penance for their hubris.
Just like me, my vaccinated friends are sitting at home this week, watching the tan fade and bingeing on Thai food delivered in a box whilst staring at some dystopian feminist melodrama on Channel 4 for human company. My Danish friend lives in a 350 square foot studio flat in Notting Hill but at least she has a balcony on which to smoke and sunbathe; otherwise I don’t know what she would do as in such a small space confinement is unbearable.
Not for her dressing up to visit Tesco Express or setting a playlist to walk in the park; no stolen glances at the hot barista on the morning coffee run. The Covid gods have spoken, and her sentence is to wake up every day in the fiery furnace of quarantine to be purified until such time as she may be released by her gracious overlords.
Lots of articles have been written recently about the pingdemic and I daresay most employees who can’t work from home are delighted to get a ping. These serfs will doubtless not be looking forward to August 16 (another ‘freedom day’), and were I one of them I would consider coming up with a strategy to deal with the impending fall-out. An efficient tactic could be the collection of bulk quantities of LF tests to multiply potentially positive results and, via photographic replication, establish a vault of templates for passing around when needed.
I digress. Back to being stalked by the Covid marshal. He knocked at the door twice, politely, and when I opened it he met me with sheepish eyes over a medical mask to request proof of ID. You can never be too careful in verifying the identity of someone who answers their own door during a spell of quarantine.
Neither of my vaccinated friends who were told to self-isolate received a visit from the NHS. I have now started quite feeling special that someone actually cared enough to check up on me.
Come to think of it, I should have invited the Covid marshal in for a drink . . .