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Traveling – An Art, A Skill, A Privilege, Or A Crime?

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Guest post by Anonymous Traveler

I never thought that traveling from the UK to Switzerland and back would make me an Indiana Jones type of traveler during government imposed medical measures.  

To put things in context, I spent all my career dealing with investments in China, Asia, Japan, Russia, and I lived/worked in Hong Kong, the US, Argentina, Russia, the UK and Europe.  I visited virtually all South East Asian counties including the former communist ones, such as Vietnam, Cambodia.  I was in Lebanon in the early 1980s.  Travelling is in my DNA.  I always felt incredibly lucky and blessed to be able to travel.

A week after the Swiss authorities lifted traveling restrictions for UK travelers, I went back to Switzerland to visit my clients and spend the last days of the skiing season in my home in the Swiss Alps.  Although I have an EU passport, it would have been quasi-impossible to transit via France before as Brexit and new lockdown rules would have meant a 7-to-10-day quarantine.  Equipped with my negative PCR test to board my Swiss flight to Geneva and having filled the UK government-imposed “Coronavirus: declaration form for international travel” – this form requires you to state your “reasonable” excuse to travel … unbelievable – I spent 2 hours in an empty Terminal 2 at Heathrow (busiest airport in Europe) // see picture // boarded my flight and landed in Geneva 15 minutes early as no air traffic in Europe skies means faster travel and no strikes by French air controllers!

Swiss immigration requires a simple but effective passenger locator form that takes a few minutes to fill in.  You do not need to carry a printed copy at all.  After showing the negative PCR test, the Immigration Officer wished me a pleasant stay in Switzerland.  It was professional, friendly, polite, human and straight to the point.  

Flying back to the UK was quite a surreal adventure.  Firstly, the passenger locator form seems to have been crafted on a portal from the early internet days.  The questions are repetitive and outright non sensical.  Secondly, the locator form cannot be validated without the reference number received after purchasing the required Day 2 and Day 8 PCR test home kit.  Of course, this kit is extra to the PCR test that is required to board the flight back to London.  In addition, I opted for the Test To Release For International Travel that has to be done on Day 5 after returning.  At an extra cost.

This meant 5 PCR tests for a trip.  My air ticket cost me less than £200.  The 5 PCR tests cost me £539.  Even If I had opted to not do the Test-To-Release it would have still be a £439 expense for PCR tests.  How can a family of 4 afford this?  It is the most abusive measures I have seen in my career traveling, often in and out of military dictatorships, for a virus that has a 99.8% survival rate!  The prohibitive cost means one thing — do NOT travel.  This is UK and Commonwealth countries specific as other countries do not require such an amount of testing.  And we are not even talking about the reliability of such PCR tests!

But it goes on.  In sharp contrast to the arrival and immigration check in Geneva that was professional and cordial, the UK arrival was intimidating and outright rude.  After disembarking, passengers go to immigration and need to stop by a plexiglass booth with officers checking their PCR and passenger locator forms.  Poor travelers who were flying in from “Red List” countries were shouted at and treated like cattle.  Being used to travel in “difficult” countries I had printed everything from PCR test results in French, English, Spanish to credit card receipts of such tests, passenger locator form, QR codes.  The officer who checked me was clearly NOT an Immigration officer.  He was a young version of Rambo who went through every single page of my passport like the young PLO kid who stopped me at a roadblock in Beirut in 1982.  Probably a 77th Brigade or Special-Op guy.  Then he went through the printed pax locator form and asked me to justify the reference number of the Day 2 & 8 PCR tests.  I told him that the locator form would not be validated without a valid reference number, but he still asked to see the original email from the provide.  I showed him on my phone, and he claimed I had only ordered the Day 2 – which is impossible as these kits come as a bundle (as per UK government rule).  Again, I told him to scroll down the email and he could verify the veracity of the order!  After waiting another 5 minutes with no questions whatsoever I was let go.  After scanning my passport on the e-gates I had never seen so many armed police / army officers looking at people as if we were reincarnations of Bin Laden.

It seems that Commonwealth countries have totally lost the plot with the UK, Canada, turning into outright medical tyrannies.   When I visited Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and China in the late 1990s I had never witnessed such intimidation at the border.  I am worried for the UK.  I am worried by the acceptance of such government abuse by the population.  

The purpose of this note is not to debate the virus, PCR tests, vaccination etc.  It is to question why this country has imposed such restrictive and intimidating measures in sharp contrast to others.

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