Ballueder Thinks (15) – Travel in times of Covid

As I sat down after my Sunday breakfast, coffee in hand, I am reflecting on my past few weeks with, or without, Covid.

As of my last blog post a couple of weeks ago, Ballueder Thinks (14), I have been going back to London. It is great to see old and new friends, to mix with people, see life happening. It all still takes a bit of getting used to, but that’s ok. We all do.

Then, in preparation for a trip to Hamburg last week, I started researching what all I have to do, in order to travel abroad. To my surprise, all the German authorities wanted to see was that I was fully vaccinated, and a form where I told them where I was staying. The British authorities on the other hand wanted a test 72 hours before travelling home, and a PCR test 2 days after I returned home, plus a form. This wasn’t what I was expecting, and it stressed me out thinking whether I had all the documents for the flight there and back.

I spoke to a few people who said a LFT (Lateral Flow Test) is fine for the return test, but no one could really confirm that. Neither the ladies at the test centre in Heathrow, nor Eurowings, my carrier home. However, after a long debate with the test centre in Hamburg, it dawned on me. It’s not the test that matters but the accuracy, which you achieve based on the British requirements through either PCR or LFT if done through an external institute. Hence, I did the LFT the minute I arrived and was good to return home.

Sitting with masks on a plane, wearing masks around an airport and generally being a bit more cautious, seems a small price to pay for the freedom of travelling. Having spent less than 72 hours in Germany, the few things I noticed that were different to Britain, were that you had to show proof of your double vaccination at every restaurant or bar you sat down; and you had to wear a mask in every indoor shop or restaurant, unless you are at your table (or you are exempt of course).

Coming home to Britain and going shopping in Brighton on Saturday was an eye opener. Not all people wear masks in the shopping centre, nor when they go into the shops. I’d say about 40% didn’t wear a mask. I was surprised, yet looking at the infection rate, I am not.

It is a real bugbear for me, and maybe I am over cautious, but wouldn’t you, when mixing with total strangers, wear a mask. It’s not for your own protection but the protection of others. I have a friend who died of Covid19 but he wasn’t vaccinated, and another friend who was vaccinated, who still had to go to hospital after catching it. You just don’t know. Most fully vaccinated folks have mild symptoms as far as I know.

I am careful what I write, as I am neither from a medical background, nor an expert on Covid. Although, given the past 18 months, we all feel like we are experts on viruses now.

All I can do is compare what I have seen. In offices I have been recently, you cannot come in without a negative test. You cannot come back to the UK without a negative test, but that will be scrapped, as this causes a lot of stress for people worried about being stranded abroad. I think it’s a good thing to be tested upon return, LFT or PCR from a lab. A small price to pay when trying to keep this virus under control.

However, I am not too worried. It is summer, still warm, and we probably don’t see a real problem until we return to autumn and ‘flu season’. When we start mixing more indoors and start getting sore throats, runny noses, and aren’t sure whether we have Covid or a common cold. And how will the virus mutate over the winter.

I agree with most people that we need to start learning how to live with it. Being able to travel, to see friends, and being sociable is a good start for me. I enjoy being out and about, but would love to see more responsibility from people to wear masks in public, protecting others and vulnerable people. And you never know, the latter might be you one day, despite double vaccination.

Yet, maybe it’s the governments’ plan (if there is such a thing) to get to herd immunity quicker. But let’s not go there.

As I finish my coffee, I am thinking. Maybe we got away lightly with us having a vaccine after only 18 months, and most people are able to manage to live with it. But, what about the next one, or the one after. Will this be a more re-occurring scheme. I hope not. And I hope we manage to maintain the new normal for a long time to come, even if it means to compromise on some rights and comforts we were so used to.