Pandemic Travel: Positively Negative

October 24, 2021 on 2:32 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Stories | No Comments

The last time I was in Glasgow was early February 2020. I wasn’t sure if a 2021 Atlantic crossing was in the cards but The Fool in the figurative Tarot card deck turned up (the fool: always up for travel, its said) and here I am: over-looking Glasgow’s iconic George Square and ready to head back west.

After a busy week of travelling and visiting I’m feeling a little weary this last eve in town. But not so much that I can’t pass along a little of my pandemic travelling experience. Through the week I couldn’t help but think (repeatedly) what a big summer contest – like, say, The Worlds – might feel like to a travelling band-from-away – and – of course, its members. If the pandemic situation doesn’t improve I’d wager what I’m describing is what travellers to SCO might expect next summer.

My trans-Atlantic route followed YYZ-DUB-GLA. A connection in another sovereign country naturally meant more process and paperwork. I’m not a big fan of connecting to anywhere via London’s Heathrow airport, mainly due to frequent personal experiences of lost luggage. Well, bags are always found, but delayed in delivery. So for me, its anywhere-but-LHR. My preference is Dublin.

One thing is clear: if any person wants to travel they’d best be “double-vaxxed”. If Invermectin is your thing you can forget about heading over the sea to Skye any time soon.

To travel now: government-issued vaccination proof is required as are “locator” forms for each country visited. For your reference, you can find these here: Ireland. Scotland.

Note, even if connecting at an airport for a brief period (where, say, you’re not leaving the airport terminal) you must still complete that country’s locator form.

My journey began by parking my car at YYZ; the beginning of my face-covered journey. Even in the carpark, the face mask was required. It seems to me “the face mask” stands as a sort of metaphor to the whole journey: the cloth covering tamps down the virus and – like a reminder string around the finger – proves to be an ever-present and relentless trophy of the pandemic.

Check-in at YYZ was slower than usual due to passengers not having completed their required “paperwork”. Hats off to airline employees at the front desk; they were loaded with patience.

I can’t think there’re many of us who enjoy wearing a face mask. For the odd few that do they’d be in heaven crossing the Atlantic these days. Masks are required for every minute on a plane. If eating or having a drink you can remove it (otherwise, imagine the mess). But that’s it. For every other moment the mask must be worn.

Dublin airport border control was smooth as silk: no queues, few questions. And, in my case, no request for proof-of-vax or Ireland locator form. Wandering around Dublin airport there was a mixed bag of mask-wearing; lots of the MUN syndrome (mask-under-nose).

Landing in Glasgow was odd. The early morning Dublin flight taxied to an old section of the airport that saw passengers step down vintage porta-steps to the tarmac and walk through a winding stretch of fusty hallways to the domestic arrivals carousel. This journey marked my first time entering the UK without seeing a Passport Control official. And me: with a phone and printed folder loaded with paperwork set to show anyone keen to see.

The prospect of covid tests coloured the whole of my trip. For anyone travelling to the UK – even if vaxxed to the max – you need to show you’re without the virus. You need to test – and submit results. It really is quite surreal. This requirement alone hangs over almost every moment of your trip; well, it did for me. Even if vaccinated, a negative test around the second day of your arrival must be taken – AND – a pre-departure (just before going home) test must produce evidence of covid-free health.

Positive results bring on quarantine and a lot of added cost to travellers (i.e. if a positive test result is present at the time of departure you can ready yourself for at least ten days in a quarantine place – financed by you). Oh, and, sadly, this (obviously) means you have Covid-19.

At the moment, covid positivity rates are on the rise in this part of the world. I found myself obsessively checking email almost every half-hour in hope of negative results – at both day two and – especially – for departure (where I sadly must admit I was checking my email every ten minutes or so). Testing requirements and the risk of positive test outcomes left me with a relentless feeling of vulnerability for pretty much every moment of my journey.

While I can say I had many fine moments of fun and catch-ups with much-loved friends, I’ll need to reflect on my adventure in pandemic travelling – and – whether I’d do it again.

A tricky time to travel. And a tricky time, I’d say, to be a band manager with a band on the hoof.

Still, I remain, positively negative.

M.

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