International 15/10/2021

A Catalan woman trapped in London due to the irrational combination of Brexit and covid

Immunisation received abroad is not recognised by the UK in case of covid-positive close contact in the country

3 min
A group of travellers in a recent image from Heathrow Airport in London.

LondonBrexit is not just a political decision that causes chaos at petrol stations, a shortage of butchers or lorry drivers or all kinds of missing items in supermarkets. Brexit is a state of mind that clouds understanding and unleashes the absurd. And there is more: not only does it discriminate between nationals and non-nationals even if they have been living in the UK for decades, but the discrimination reaches irrational and unjustifiable limits.

For example, while London recognises and administers the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, if the injection has been received abroad, in a country of the European Union, as is the case, it is practically useless. At least for bureaucratic purposes if you have had close contact with a covid-positive person. Another thing is the health benefits, which are unbeatable, especially in the British Isles, a country where its prime minister, Boris Johnson, decided months ago that the pandemic was over, where the use of masks is anecdotal but where in the last 24 hours more than 45,000 new infections have been recorded and in the last seven days there have been 823 deaths. Far from having covid under control.

No need to name names. Just be assured that this reporter has checked the whole story with the person involved, and that when I asked the National Health Service (NHS), covid-19 section, about their situation, with a difference of one hour I was told one thing - and its opposite.

The protagonist of the story - a well-known person in the Catalan cultural world - arrived in London a few days ago. She has been vaccinated for more than two weeks and two months, she filled out the form required by the British before flying to cross the border and took a PCR test - with a negative result - which must be taken before travelling, and which a newcomer must take within the first two days of their stay in the country.

Everything was perfect until Thursday, when the absurd situation began. Through the data left on the passenger form, she received the notice that she had been in close contact with a covid-positive case, certainly one of the occupants of the plane in which she arrived. And with the message, the warning that she had to isolate until 19 October. She was scheduled to return on the 17th.

Since 16 August, UK residents who are close contacts of a positive person but have received the full vaccination schedule do not have to isolate, as per government specifications. But the devil is in the details, and the small print renders the vaccine useless if the jab has been received outside of the UK. The text reads as follows when talking about exemptions to self-isolation, possible as long as you are "fully vaccinated 14 days after the final dose of an MHRA [the UK regulator] approved vaccine that has been administered in the UK". This is the key point. The needle with the little Union Jack flag.

Faced with so much irrationality - discrimination based on the country where the dose was injected -, the woman contacted the covid information service. On Thursday the answer was the same as the message: she had to self-isolate and, therefore, miss the flight. On Friday, after a call with the consular services without any success, she contacted this columnist, who had in his head the rule, in force since 16 August: no need to self-isolate if you were vaccinated even if you had been a contact of a covid-19 positive case.

To make sure, I called 119. On the first call, the answer was that I could fly, there was no need to self-isolate. To be on the safe side, I repeated the call. And the second time the answer was, after prior consultation with a supervisor, that unfortunately the rule stated that the vaccine was only recognised if it had been administered in the UK and therefore had to be locked up - and not fly.

I ended the conversation by thanking the kind person on the other end of the phone for the information but not without mentioning that I assumed it was all because of Brexit. The same Brexit that is causing the slow and inexorable decline of the UK, although the only people who haven't realised it yet are not so much the British as the English. "Have a nice day ", ended the interlocutor. Have a nice day. My friend, the person caught in the middle of bureaucratic irrationality, will remain in London until October 19th. Her schedule and that of other people has been changed. Thanks to Boris Johnson, who must just be flying back from his holiday in Marbella, and who between May and June wanted to get round the self-isolation rule when it was still compulsory for those who are vaccinated with the Union Jack.

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