Quarantine diary (1) May 2021

Travelling to the UK from France under quarantine regulations

Kent coast from Calais cliffs

I am currently in ten-day quarantine in the university residence provided for my stay at Cambridge. On Monday 10th May, I travelled by car via the tunnel and completed all the documentation needed online previous to travel : prebooked Covid testing package for days 2 and 8 of quarantine (£164), negative PCR Covid test less than 72h prior to travel (free in France), online passenger locator form giving quarantine address, Covid testing package reference number and various other details about travel prior to entering Britain.

This was a long process and I needed a check list with dates by which I had to make sure I had completed each step. Eurotunnel sent me regular reminders about these steps right up to within hours of my departure time. With the necessary papers the check-in and police checks at the Eurotunnel was very simple. The Eurotunnel staff and system recognize your number plate and identify you immediately. They ask you, once more, whether you have completed all the necessary steps. The French police checked my passport, the British Border control checked my ID and the two documents proving I had a negative Covid test result and had completed the passenger locator form. Neither asked me for proof that my trip was necessary, as would have been the case several weeks ago.

I had no delays in that respect, although I had had to change my booking at the last minute and rebook another train 2 hours later due to an unexpected battery failure on my car – solved by the emergency car service I called. Luckily I had chosen a rebookable and refundable ticket. Then again, having driven six hours to Calais, I had also chosen to stay overnight in a hotel the night before, firstly to avoid a 12h trip and to be in good time to respect the curfew in place in France (no travel from 7pm to 6am), but also so as to be less pressed for time and to make the crossing and checking-in less stressful. It meant I had allowed the full 90 minutes before departure to complete the checks had any problems with other cars in front of me in the queue held the proceedings up.

Once off the train and onto the M20 – no further checks necessary on the British side, I travelled directly to my university digs as instructed, although it was impossible not to stop at motorway services to buy petrol and use the toilet facilities as the Eurotunnel trains have no on-board services at the moment. Once I had retrieved my key and unloaded my car, I have remained in my flat. Luckily it has a courtyard for sun, air and outdoor exercise. I am also lucky in not having to pay for compulsory hotel accomodation as foreign residents who arrive by plane from ‘banned’ countries, and I’m getting two hot meals a day and breakfast delivered by the catering staff, and can order in food for delivery by local stores.

I have been contacted by phone by Test and Trace who asked me a number of questions. I was asked if it was ok to continue the phone call in English, I don’t know what would have happened had I said no – and in view of the extremely serious and detailed content of the call, many people who did not have a good command of English might not have understood everything that was recited.

The caller obviously had prompt cards telling him what he should say and the language was very formal. I was asked whether I was following the instructions to quarantine, reminded me of the £10,000 fine I incurred if I didn’t, asked if I had received my test package, told what to do if the first test was positive – who to call, not to go to doctor or hospital, not to take the second test… which seems obvious now I think about it, but I hadn’t envisaged.

In fact, despite the tone being business-like and polite, the content of the call was rather frightening – fines and the idea that you might have a positive Covid test back all being clearly set out. At no point was I reassured that if the two tests were negative I would be ‘free’ to leave quarantine after Day 10. I checked on the government website and the precise moment is 11.59 pm on day 10, no matter what time you arrived on Day 0. Apparently I can look forward to receiving these phone calls every day. Maybe I shall ask about what if everything is ok. But then, this is serious and the tone probably intentional to make people keep to the quarantine rules. Tomorrow I shall complete the first test (Day 2) and send it back for processing. I expect the result to take a couple of days.

At no time in the process since registering online, have I been asked whether I am vaccinated or to give details (when, where, which vaccine, how many doses). In fact, I am fully vaccinated and have been since the 30th April. However, it is still possible, although less likely, that I could catch Covid, and that I can pass it on. As the Government website states:

« What you can do after you’ve had the vaccine

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and a full course will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. We don’t know how much it will reduce the risk of you passing on the virus. So it is important to continue to follow current national guidance.

To protect yourself and your family, friends and colleagues, you MUST still:

  • practise social distancing
  • wear a face mask
  • wash your hands carefully and frequently
  • open windows to let fresh air in
  • follow the current guidance »

I intend to keep the habits dearly learnt even with family for the moment – my adult children are still socially distancing when we meet – although my 96 year-old father, also fully vaccinated, wants to be able to hug me when I see him again for the first time in 14 months… I will let him be the judge of that.

Note: As of May 17th, France will be on the Amber list and the same restrictions and obligations will apply.