'Is it time to bin quarantine in favour of common sense?'

Passengers queue at London Heathrow Airport's T3 as the US reopens its borders to UK visitors in a s

Predeparture Covid tests for UK arrivals are to be scrapped - Credit: PA

Here we are in 2022 and I never thought that nearly two years on I’d still be talking about Covid.

Our family has for some time made a concerted effort not to talk about it as doing so invariably results in a heated debate about the moral validity of vaccine passes (parents in favour, young adult offspring against), or whether an unvaccinated Covid patient deserves treatment over a cancer patient who’s waited six months for an appointment (don’t know and don’t envy the NHS staff who have to make such impossible decisions).

However, I’m talking about it now because I’ve just tested positive for the first time. I have no fever or symptoms barring a mild tickle in my throat. I’m far more well than I was a couple of months ago when I had the cold from hell – two weeks of full-on blocked nose, coughing and sneezing but according to regular LFTs (how we love a new acronym), no Covid.

I’m also not in the UK having been lucky enough – until yesterday – to successfully navigate the obstacle course of locator forms, QR codes and costly testing that, at the time of writing, foreign travel still entails. I realise I’m hugely fortunate to have escaped Blighty for sunnier climes; I’d now like to return as intended but am currently unable to do so because of a red line depicting a virus I didn’t know I had, whose symptoms now seem in the majority of cases to be negligible or non-existent.

Hampstead writer Beatrix Clark tested positive for Covid

Beatrix Clark tested positive for Covid - Credit: Beatrix Clark

So it’s heartening to read about the scrapping of pre-departure tests for UK arrivals. What’s the point of creating travel chaos trying to keep something out of the country that’s already so there it’s virtually endemic? Particularly as we are now lucky enough to have a readily available vaccine that has significantly reduced the severity of Covid, and a weaker variant in circulation?

Let’s hope similar logic is applied to quarantine. I’m not a teacher, train or truck driver and my absence will have minimal impact. But what about the businesses struggling to stay afloat due to staff shortages and the key workers whose enforced isolation causes cancelled classrooms, empty shelves or a myriad of other disruptions to daily life?

Protecting the NHS is vital but for how long can society function when huge swathes of it are stuck at home with barely a sniffle?

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Of course if someone feels really ill they should take a few days off and dose themselves with Lemsip as they would with a cold or flu. Precautions make sense for those working with the sick and vulnerable for whom, from April, mandatory vaccinations for health and care staff will provide added protection. For the rest of us, is it time to bin quarantine in favour of good old fashioned common sense?

And will we still be having a similar conversation in a year’s time

Beatrix Clark is a Hampstead writer.