Three calls and a visit: UK quarantine checks on my trip from France
Travel to the UK from France is currently more difficult due to Covid restrictions than for any other European country. Nevertheless, writer Jane Hanks went back for her mother’s 94th birthday and shares what life is like in quarantine
I am in the UK. I decided to come from France for my mother’s 94th birthday, despite the quarantine rules still in force for French residents due to the country being on the UK’s amber plus travel list. I am now quarantining, as per the UK’s rules.
Everyone travelling from France to the UK - fully vaccinated or not - must quarantine for 10 days on arrival, as well as taking two Covid tests on days two and eight. In England, there is an option for early release on day five if you pay for a third Covid test.
For the US and all other EU countries except France, fully vaccinated people travelling to the UK are exempt from quarantine and only need to take one Covid test, within two days of arriving.
It was frustrating to see last night’s headlines on the UK news channels of reunited families as the first flights from the US landed at Heathrow.
I am happy for them, of course, and I have been able to see my mum for the first time in over a year, but I cannot go out or take her shopping, and it has been costly. I am able to stay with her, and was assured I did not have to stay in my room. She, like me, is fully vaccinated.
It does not seem fair that I have to quarantine, when I am no more of a Covid risk than anyone else in Europe or the US.
I am actually a very low risk, as I am double vaccinated, live in an area in France with a low population and few Covid cases and work from home.
I am happy to make a big effort when necessary, but being told that mainland France is amber plus because of high levels of the South African variant on Réunion, which is on the UK’s amber list, does not seem to me to be a good reason.
And I am being checked up on to make sure that I am in quarantine here.
I arrived on Friday July 30 in the evening. My first phone call on my mobile from the UK government was on Saturday, but it only rang three times and I did not get there in time. I rang the number back, but it was impossible to speak to anyone.
I was phoned on Sunday and then again on Monday. I was asked whether I understood the quarantine rules, if I agreed to abide by them and if I had any questions. I also had a physical visit from a government employee on Monday, to check I was at the address I had given.
He did not stay long, standing outside the back door with a mask on. He asked if I was Jane Hanks and when I agreed I was, he tapped something into his phone.
His next visit was 55 miles (88km) away and he said, yes, he was covering the miles and had clocked up 12,000 since May and he was only doing this on his days off. He used to be a chef, but is now working for the government on Covid. And he told me someone could be back, to check again.
The obligatory tests in the UK were more expensive than the flight. I paid €120 for a return flight with Ryanair from Bergerac to Bristol with baggage in the hold. There were just forty of us on the plane, which seats 189. I had a row of three seats to myself – no-one across the aisle, no-one behind and no-one in front.
I paid £160 to Boots for a PCR do-it-yourself at home and postal test for days two and eight.
As I am staying for ten days, I have opted for the day five release scheme when you book yet another test in advance, and if the results are negative you no longer have to stay in quarantine, but you still have to take the day eight test. That cost £45. I will send that off on Wednesday, but realise that I will have to wait for the results before my quarantine can come to an end, so that is more likely to be day six or seven.
My day two test results (negative) arrived on day four.
At least I will have the weekend to go out, not for a riotous party, but at least to go to the village shop, go for a walk, go out for a drive with my mum and see the rest of my family in the UK.
It was definitely worth the huge hassle to get everything organised, but I am hoping for a stress free visit next time.