The Australian system is invasive but vastly preferable to the palpable neglect you experience on arrival in the UKby Philippa Levine / October 21, 2020 / Leave a comment
On a pleasingly sunny morning last month I arrived bleary-eyed at the airport, off the flight from Chicago and ready to begin a two-week quarantine. At much the same time an Australian friend, her husband and two small children had arrived at Sydney Airport, also facing a fortnight of quarantine. We decided to pass the long hours comparing our experiences—which could not have been more different.
The day before flying I went online and completed a passenger locator form—where would I pass my period of isolation, how could I be reached and so on. I printed a copy off so that an official could scan its QR code when I reached the airport. Some 15 minutes before we boarded, the gate attendants informed passengers of the need to complete the form, and it was apparent that many people had no idea of the requirement. And that was the only mention of it we got. Even before landing, when the announcements about immigration and customs happened, there was no further advice.
Some 17,000 kilometres away in Sydney, meanwhile, Patricia and her family were met at the airport by a nurse who took their temperatures and asked about a long list of symptoms. When none of them displayed any worrying signs of infection, they were escorted by a soldier and a police officer to a family-sized suite in a downtown hotel where they would spend the next fortnight. Patricia had registered their impending arrival some six weeks before flying while in the UK, passengers may complete their form no more than 48 hours prior to arrival. She’d jumped on it early, knowing that the New South Wales state government planned to implement a per capita charge on arrivals to help pay for the mandatory quarantine in mid-July, but that if you registered before then, you could skirt these hefty new fees.
When I landed, other than a few posted signs on the interminable walk to immigration, entry to the UK proceeded as normal. These signs warned passengers not to go any further until they had completed the form, but their reappearance at various intervals suggested that officials already knew they had lost the battle for efficient paperwork. At the e-gates I waited less than five minutes, presented my passport and was through to…