Stuff the guidance – why I’m still travelling to the amber list

And I’d do it again in a heartbeat, says Mike MacEacheran

Friday 25 June 2021 16:24
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<p>Copenhagen in Denmark is amber-listed</p>

Copenhagen in Denmark is amber-listed

Over the course of sticking a nasal swab up both my nostrils, I look like a dozen different Snapchat Face-Swaps. I twist and tickle the bud deep into my nasal cavity, twitch my eyes, crease my forehead, stretch my septum, and transform myself from average-looking bloke into deranged serial killer meets comical duck. Unflattering mirrors, you will not by now be surprised to learn, are a common theme of quarantine.

You join me as I enter day two of self-isolation in Edinburgh and, legally, I’m obliged to stay under house arrest for 10 days because I took a trip to amber-lister Denmark. Currently, I’m walled-in by Pot Noodles and Irn Bru and all I can think of – apart from the oropharyngeal and nasal swabs – is I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

When you think of the sun-lashed waterfront cafes of Nyhavn in Copenhagen, you’ll agree with me. Then add to the picture the burgers and beers of the city’s Broens Gadekøkken. The fairy tale beats of pleasure at Tivoli Gardens. The delightful cycle lanes and outdoor harbour pools. The semblance of normality of it all. Life in Copenhagen this week felt like the most enlightened way to exist. In fact, it was so good I’m now booked to fly on holiday to another safe and savvy amber-lister – Switzerland – exactly three weeks today.

Life in Copenhagen this week felt like the most enlightened way to exist

The reason? Explaining that is the easy part. Because plenty of us have to travel to do our jobs and I have family and friends I’d move heaven and earth to see. Because trips overseas are a legitimate excuse for life to get back to normal. Because I miss Europe, and, perhaps now, especially that it’s no longer part of our immediate lives, it is worth escaping to. Because I fell in love with planes before I fell in love with travel. And I missed it. Heck, we all miss it. Because the green list remains impossibly short and we know travelling to a red list country needs a certain kind of enthusiasm (or possibly masochism). And, finally, because of the amber list. Now, there’s the very essence of travel, right there.

You need to be cautious, of course, and the testing is expensive, but travelling to an amber list country isn’t illegal, even if it is advised against by the four UK governments. And I argue that it’s worth it, even considering all the ever-changing hoops we need to jump through.

Self-isolating at home, on the other hand, is loaded with absurd contradictions. Even more so when done off the back of a trip to a Covid-smart country like Denmark. In Copenhagen, for instance, the number of daily Covid cases is so low – get this – that Danes and visitors no longer have to wear face masks in public. Indeed, you are only required to do so when moving around on public transport. It was as if the place was humming with happiness.

On Wednesday, when I left Copenhagen for Heathrow, there were 223 new cases nationwide, compared to 16,135 back here in the UK. The ridiculousness of leaving one of the safest places in Europe for one of the least safe wasn’t lost on me as I began my 10-day lock-up at home. Sixty thousand football fans can go to Wembley in just over a week, though. That’s fine. And it’s also OK to exempt 2,500 so-called VIPs from across Europe from so much as a sniff of self-isolation. Talk about double standards.

I’ve now also had three Covid tests – all of which were negative – and, as you’ll also know, I have two home tests to complete on days two and eight. Which makes five tests in total. The ones in Denmark were free, while those here cost £250. At least in some ways, we continue to reach for new heights.

For now, though, I’m stuck at home, deferring to the letter of the law as a model citizen. It irks me, it really does. You don’t need to agree with me, but Britain’s sky is no longer falling in and the sooner the UK governments’ stop flogging the notion that overseas travel is bad for your health the better. Going overseas remains delightful and a necessity for many – and we’ve got to remember that.

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