Holidays in the time of Covid-19
Perhaps we were foolhardy but, at the end of July, with cases of coronavirus seeming to be under control, we decided to book a break to Italy from mid September. With the restrictions being eased from June onwards we had already been with friends on a 4 day trip to nearby Bourton on the Water and had enjoyed a long weekend on the south coast with the whole family for a special celebration. Both trips had gone well. Extra safety precautions had been taken by us all and by both hotels … extra cleaning, temperature checking on arrival, hand sanitiser facilities widely available, additional precautions taken with regard to serving food, and bedrooms not being entered by cleaning staff during our stay …. so one had to make one’s own bed! The two trips were taken before the Rule of 6 was introduced and the then existing government guidance was followed.
As we were not sure of the wisdom of flying to Italy we decided to drive, breaking the journey overnight at a hotel in Germany. With both France and Switzerland once again experiencing high levels of cases we decided to transit through these countries without stopping. Although there were no quarantine restrictions in Italy from having stopped and mixed with people in France and Switzerland, as there were in England from stopping in those two countries, it seemed right to avoid stopping, for our own sakes, and for the sake of friends we would be seeing in Italy. It was a long non-stop drive from the Channel Tunnel at Calais to Saarbrücken in Germany, about 5 ½ hours, but we made it and stopped there at a service station to refuel the car and buy sandwiches etc. From there it was back over the border to France as we headed south to Freiburg where we were staying for the night.
We were rather concerned about the reaction to us of people in Italy since, by the time we left England, the number of cases here was significantly on the increase, having risen to nearly 4,000 a day whereas in Italy it was then only 1,300 a day. Italy had suffered early and greatly in the pandemic in the spring at the start of the outbreak and the restrictions under which its citizens were placed were stricter than our restrictions in England. In this way they had brought the situation under manageable control. In the event we were welcomed very sincerely by our friends in the Lazio region, though not with open arms! Instead of the usual hugs and kisses on both cheeks they were now resorting to greetings by elbow bumps, as we do here! We at all times felt safe during our time in Italy where there were precautions similar to those in England. However, it was compulsory to wear a mask indoors, including in schools, except in private homes, and it was noticeable the number of people who wore face masks all the time outdoors except when sitting down and eating outside at a restaurant or drinking a coffee or something stronger at a bar. This was even before wearing masks outdoors was made compulsory in Lazio on 2 October and then nationwide on 7 October. We also decided, for the safety of everyone concerned, that all our meetings with friends would be held outside at bars and cafés or at restaurants and this safety precaution seemed to be much appreciated.
While we were away we kept a close eye on the BBC news and the extremely worrying significant increase in cases, both in England, and across much of Europe. In addition to the serious situation in the Midlands and in the North of England, local news bulletins on my phone’s Google news feed flagged reports that Oxford was heading for red alert and that the number of cases in Oxfordshire was also increasing greatly, as it was in much of the rest of the UK, and, in fact, much of Europe.
We decided that for our return journey it would be safer for us to take a similar route to our outward journey, not stopping and mixing with people in either Switzerland or France and making our last stop for fuel and food before England at Saarbrücken in Germany. In addition, by only transiting these countries, we would not be required to quarantine for 14 days when back in Eynsham. We kept our fingers crossed that we wouldn’t have a car problem or a puncture (with no spare wheel, only a kit to get the car to the nearest garage, this would have necessitated a “mixing with people” stop!). In the event, all went well. We arrived at Calais early and were allocated a place on the train an hour earlier than our booking which, in the event, left 40 minutes late but still 20 minutes earlier than our original booking. We had completed online the coronavirus Passenger Locator Forms required for entry to the UK by the UK Border Agency and downloaded the confirmation emails and QR code to our phones. These and our passports were checked by Border Agency staff and soon we were on the train heading back to England.
It was great to be away on holiday, a rather different experience to what we would normally encounter in Italy, but it was also great to get back home to Eynsham. There is nothing quite like that luxurious and safe feeling of climbing into one’s own bed after some time away!