An atypical post for With Varying Frequency, as the XYL made a priority Elder-care trip to England, which was booked immediately when the British Government announced elimination of the ten-day isolation quarantine when arriving in England from the USA. What follows was my running notes as posted in a travel forum. Despite the forum’s claimed large traveler participation, as the XYL left immediately on the rule change, we were the first timers in the process.
As the rules, apps, and experience will evolve, they are offered as an accounting of the XYL’s August 2021 trip alone. I am offering this here as many of us travel, and some might be contemplating travel for radio opportunities or DXpedition reasons. Worth thinking about – and knowing if you break the rules or mess it up, you can be fined in the English case some thing like $7,000/person, put into quarantine until you can be sent home and have your future UK access put into question.
This trip was a success though worrisome, and required a couple extra tests at the end as the XYL’s host was Pinged by the NHS (National Health Service) App during the period they were working together to help the XYL’s parents. So out of caution a couple extra tests were taken.
Navigating the UK Gov website, Airline Website and juggling all the documents is a bit of a tricky deal.
Not all are properly updated as of Monday August 2nd 2021, the selfie photograph taking part of the UK Gov site has a mind of its
own, and it is hard to answer some of the questions as they are already outdated.
Expect this will get better as the updates to websites are completed/harmonized.
Some really silly stuff like the email from the UK Gov has a pdf attachment that cannot be opened on latest iOS USA configured
phones, but can be opened once to save it to a desktop computer and then resend it back to yourself. I simply don’t have time to dig
into that error, as the workaround takes longer to write up to share than do for yourself.
Current rule extra costs up to the point of travel (so far):
- About 14 hours of extra time spent.
- Local C-19 test (out of pocket unknown)
- Day-2 C-19 test – best deal found about UKP 85 (uses DHL delivery)
- Extra Insurance (our choice, again we use EA+) – $105/pp
Expected additional costs:
- Less than 4 hours anticipated for test and games
- Pre-Return C-19 test – another UKP 85 (unless a better deal is found)
That is if everything goes well.
Summary – about an extra $400-500 per person C-19 “drag” for 3 tests and extra insurance.
Lost a lot of hours with evolving apps and repetitive data entry which with the freshly updated apps often errored out after 20-30
minutes of filling in pages, sometimes losing the entries. With less than 12 hours before outbound flight it is still not possible
to check-in online due to programming issues between the check-in program and the C-19 verification program.
Lots of loose ends, but think this will settle down and streamline.
- Take screenshots of EVERYTHING POTENTIALLY USEFUL and organize them.
- Print out EVERYTHING POTENTIALLY USEFUL and organize those. Second set perhaps?
- Photograph C-19 documents and organize those.
- Make sure you put your electronic copies actually ON your phone/devices rather than being available only if you are online or
have wifi/cell service.
- Someone not traveling could hold a set of all this for you in case your phone pukes/gets lost or other eventualities.
- If you are cloud storage comfortable, put a backup there as well.
My last post at the travel forum:
- Apps are partially working and part broke
- Having paper copies and screen shots LOCALLY saved on the phone was a magic fix
- As our UK SIM had expired, not having a UK Cellphone was worrisome but became helpful later when useless alerts were unable to be
- The NHS App uses Bluetooth to establish whether you were in close contact with someone who later reports positive. Since Bluetooth
does go through walls and at times more open space than expected, even the NHS admits up to 80% of alerts were not from real contacts.
Understand this an manage it appropriately.
- UK Testing is a PITA, as delivery services have you sign for the tests (and they were uniformly late, in the first instance by a
day), so you lose time waiting for the delivery.
- It is easier to drop your test at a test center, if one is local to you, than locate the courier’s drop off point, if rural.
- The UK test arrives as a password protected pdf. The QR code on it is NOT the QR code the Apps look for, so reconcile yourself to
manually entering the data. You need to have a non-password protected copy up upload to the various Apps, so either make a
screen shot or get someone to “fix it” for you.
- The different processes have timelines interwoven, with some arbitrary cut offs, so you need to manage a number of moving parts.
- If you get Pinged by the NHS App of a Bluetooth close-contact with a person reported positive you get ZERO information on who/where or
exact time. So DO NOT take your phone to the Sports Center to lay for an hour in a locker while you have a socially distanced/managed/near-hermitic swimming session – or any other clustering where your phone is nearby a lot of other phones – as your risk of a false contact Ping goes through the roof.
- Remember the local phrase “Double Vaccinate” is equal to “Fully Vaccinated” – did not hear of anyone with a single shot J&J type
- It was MAGIC to have someone at home [me!] create password-free pdf copies, pull everything together in “travel packs” and get it organized. Would be more difficult with just an iPhone. Having that Life Line reassured.
- The UK based tests were pricey – about $130 to $180 each test. You need at least two, but if you get worried or get Pinged you may need more.
- A lot of people are taking “flow tests” on a regular basis, which are much cheaper, but the turn-around and delay from test drop-off
to return report made them unsuitable for traveling needs.
- A lot of this is in flux, so it will be likely the Apps will improve and the rules will change.
On a personal level the trip mattered by getting help started for the nonagenarian elders who have become frail since the last 2019
visit. The decline so merited the interventional trip. The “Fraility Department” folks are awesome, and hopefully will help make a difference as twilight years give way to personal sunsets.
One of the other UK based forum participants noted his tests came by mail, perhaps because he was established at one address as a resident:
> delivery services have you sign
> for the tests
Not the ones I got. They were in my mail box when I got back from Spain. I packaged each of the two tests and dropped them off at the
mailbox. Got results by email. Quite simple.
I agree it’s not cheap.