The following is a tale of what you can expect should you choose to travel to the UK at the moment.
I arrived last Friday at Heathrow on KM100. The flight was around a third full. I had with me my negative test from St James Hospital, my UK passenger locator form, my Air Malta passenger locator form, my Malta Vaccination Certificate (no one cares, it doesn’t count) and proof that I had ordered my day two, day five and day eight tests for the UK.
The total cost of all required tests was around €440.
To put what I am about to tell you into some kind of context, I last travelled to the UK in December, near the height of the pre-vaccination pandemic.
I was not required to take a test. When I arrived at Heathrow back then, I went straight through the E Gates; nobody requested any documents. I dutifully quarantined for ten days, nobody checked on me.
This time was somewhat different. Upon arrival, following the customary three mile walk at Heathrow, you are ushered into a ‘snake queue’ in the arrivals hall. All passport holders from the UK, EU, US, Canada, Japan (why ?) join one queue; everybody else is in another.
Oh, and forget what the UK press announced about red list travellers arriving at another terminal, they don’t. They are in a separate queue but the same terminal.
This particular form of queueing hell was perfected over many years by The Disney Corporation. Heathrow seems intent on recreating the conditions of a hot Florida summer waiting with your screaming kids to get on Space Mountain. If you ever want to catch Covid, this is the place.
Heathrow have faithfully copied all the Disney torture techniques including the classic ‘Let’s make them think they’ve reached the front of the line then send them into another hall with an even bigger queue.’ At this point, you can see the immigration officers stifling a giggle.
It took me three hours almost to the minute to arrive at the immigration desk. This was partly because out of eight desks only four were manned. For a period, two of the four were manned by trainees. The trainer was smirking.
Having finally retrieved my bag, I grabbed a cab. The driver was a very nice Iranian gentleman who regaled me with stories about how you could buy a negative Covid certificate for five US Dollars in Tehran. If however, you wanted a positive test changed to negative, it might cost you ten.
The following morning at around 9am I received a call on my Malta mobile. The following is my best recollection of the conversation:
“Good morning sir, this is the UK NHS Track and Trace. Could you give me your date of Birth?”
“Can I just warn you that this call is being recorded and its contents may be shared with Border control and the Home Office. Are you happy to continue?”
“How exciting, yes I am!”
“And are you happy for this conversation to be in English?”
“I am English.”
“In fact I got an A in my GCSE English in 1976. I remember most of it.”
A momentary silence followed by detailed questions about how I was quarantining, the testing protocol etc and ending with a warning:
“Sir you are not allowed to leave quarantine for any reason. If you get sick, you must not visit a doctor or a hospital, a doctor must come to you.”
“But what about going out to post my tests?”
‘That’s fine, you can do that.”
“Do I need to take any sort of precautions like wear a mask?”
Either he was a very good actor or the irony of his statements had simply not registered. He told me that he was finished. I said since this was being recorded could I add that I was twice vaccinated and had a vaccination certificate from the Government of Malta.
“Doesn’t count, have a nice day!”
The next day, day two apparently, he called again this time at noon. He said it was day two, I asked him that given I had arrived at Heathrow at nine in the morning, wasn’t it day three ? He explained that arrival day was ‘Day Zero’.
On Day Zero nobody checks your whereabouts. You can go to a football match, shopping in Harrods or a pub crawl in Soho.
This is the madness of quarantine UK, arriving from a country with a fantastic vaccination record and single digit daily cases (proportionately much lower than the UK).
Finally, please note that even if Malta had made the much coveted green list, you would still be in the same queue at Heathrow, fifty metres away from red list passengers.
Prisoner Cell Block H
Do you agree with the vaccine passport system?
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