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Going viral: I am heading to Britain on June 29

Gulf News Foreign Correspondent Mick O’Reilly on life under COVID-19 lockdown
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Like millions of others around the world, Gulf News Foreign Correspondent Mick O’Reilly is currently under COVID-19 lockdown. This is what life is like in social isolation in Ireland, where there are evolving rules about who is allowed out, where, and under what circumstances. The rules are slowly changing as the first wave of the crisis eases.

DAY 85: Monday June 22, 9am

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

. NO QUARANTINE FOR UK TRAVELERS ENTERING SPAIN, FOREIGN MINISTER CONFIRMS

. UK HAS QUARANTINE FOR FOREIGN ARRIVALS, LEADING TO FEARS OF TIT-FOR-TAT PACT

I am heading to Britain on June 29, the first day in months where I can travel freely. I’ll spend about 10 days catching up with family and friends there – Britain has been hit hard by the pandemic – then put my car on a ferry to France and head towards Cadiz in the very south of Spain.

Thankfully now, the way ahead should be clear.

While the UK has a 14-day quarantine rule for foreigners arriving there, Ireland is exempt.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told the BBC on Saturday that travellers from the United Kingdom will not need to undergo a two-week coronavirus quarantine when they arrive on Spanish soil, despite the fact that all passengers traveling to the former country are currently required to self-isolate for a 14-day period.

The confirmation came the day before the border will reopen, and after a week of uncertainty that began last Sunday when the Spanish government announced that borders would reopen on June 21 to European Union and Schengen-area countries. Spain locked down its frontiers during the state of alarm that was implemented on March 14 in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

It was at first unclear whether UK travellers would be included within this group of countries, given that it officially left the European Union earlier this year. However, a Spanish government source later confirmed that UK citizens would be able to travel to Spain from Sunday, given that the UK is in a Brexit transition period and still enjoys full rights as an EU state.

IDEA OF A RECIPROCAL QUARANTINE

Just days later, during an interview with the BBC’s HARDTalk news show, Gonzalez Laya floated the idea of a reciprocal quarantine for UK travelers, given the restrictions that are still in place in that country for arrivals and that are unlikely to be reviewed until at least the end of the month. But on Saturday she finally confirmed to the British broadcaster that visitors will not have to quarantine, but will be subject to a “triple check” to look for coronavirus symptoms on arrival at the country’s airports, and will have to register “so we know we have a contact point to trace them.”

“We want to make sure that we welcome visitors, but we want to do this in safety and security for them, as well as for the Spaniards,” the BBC reported her as saying.

The minister said that the decision had been taken “out of respect” for the hundreds of thousands of people from the UK who own properties in Spain. Not just Brits, I hasten to add here, Irish people like me too! And I can’t wait to get back to the Canary Islands.

The minister also said that conversations were ongoing with the UK authorities to exempt Spanish arrivals from the two-week isolation rules.

LOCKDOWN EASING IS ‘ON TRACK’ IN THE UK

The British health secretary has told Sky News the government is “on track” to ease the coronavirus lockdown further from 4 July.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Matt Hancock said this could include pubs and restaurants reopening – as well as people being able to get haircuts again.

“We’re on plan, we will of course be setting out more details of that plan and in the plan it states that on around July 4 we will take further measures if it’s safe to do so,” the health secretary said.

“We talk about hospitality and outdoor hospitality in that plan but there are a whole series of other services especially where you need to be physically close to someone to carry it out like a haircut – a lot of the country does need a haircut.”

Asked if that will mean barbers and hairdressers will be able to reopen, Hancock replied: “I’m not going to rule that out. We’ll set out the details as soon as we can. We’re clearly on track for that plan because of the number of cases coming down and the plan does refer to hospitality and some of the other things that are closed that so many people want to see open.”

On pubs, the health secretary said ministers were looking at a number of measures to ensure it is “safe” for them to reopen.

“That’s the sort of thing we’re looking at for how do you make it safe to open things,” Hancock told Ridge. “And things like wearing a face mask which reduces the transmission clearly, about how the seating is arranged because face-to-face is much more dangerous than back-to-back and there’s more transmission than side-to-side. And also the sorts of things you can put in place to strengthen test and trace because the whole approach is to move as much as safely possible from a national lockdown towards targeted local action when we see an outbreak.”

MEME OF THE DAY

I came across this on Facebook. Yes, I am a big fan of Clint Eastwood and his characters don’t soften with age.

Meme

Image Credit: Supplied

HOW THE MAP OF EUROPE LOOKS NOW

I’ve done this before several times, but it is worthwhile looking at the situation again as it does change every week.

With the summer holiday season fast approaching, people across Europe have started to wonder whether they will be able to get away this summer – and how far they will be able to go.

The border situation remains a mixed picture across Europe, with each country imposing its own rules and its own timetable for re-opening. Here’s the latest situation but, I would caution, you should check with national authorities if you do indeed plan to travel.

Austria: Austria opened its land borders with Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic on June 4. The country reopened its border with Italy from June 16, but a travel warning will be issued for the region of Lombardy. There are no restrictions with most European Union countries except for travellers from the UK, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal who must still present a medical certificate and self-isolate. People arriving in Austria “from any other country” must also produce a medical certificate proving a negative COVID-19 test. The certificate cannot be more than four days’ old. Entry by air is prohibited to citizens coming from countries outside the Schengen area.

Belgium: Borders with the European Union as well as the UK and the four other Schengen countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway) have reopened. There is no quarantine or health certificate condition. Non-essential travel to and from outside the EU and Schengen countries remains prohibited until July 1.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: The border is only currently open to citizens of neighbouring Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia – other foreign arrivals are not permitted. There are some exceptions, including freight drivers, residents and diplomats.

Bulgaria: Bulgaria opened its borders on June 1 to EU countries, the UK, San Marino, Andorra, Monaco, Vatican, Serbia and North Macedonia citizens, as well as to medical workers and family members of Bulgarian citizens, as listed on the government website. Travellers from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are also allowed. But some exemptions remain. Tourists from Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, and the UK must self-isolate for 14 days. Tourists from the other countries must meanwhile submit a declaration acknowledging they have been informed of the country’s anti-epidemic measures and with risks associated with COVID-19 to a health inspector at the border.

Croatia: Croatia reopened its borders to all EU citizens, including from the UK, on June 15, with no obligation to quarantine. Croatia opened its borders in mid-May without restriction to nationals from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Germany and Slovakia.

Cyprus: Cyprus resumed tourist travel on June 9 after closing its borders for almost three months. The country will also cover health costs in case of coronavirus contamination occurring on the Mediterranean island. Authorities have created two lists of countries. Travellers from Category A countries — Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland — face no restrictions. Those from Category B nations — Israel, Poland, and Romania —must present a health certificate no older than three days. Travel from other EU countries not included in the lists is only allowed in exceptional cases and requires government approval. These include the country’s two main tourism markets, Britain and Russia. However, flights from Britain could restart in mid-July, and a few weeks later from Russia. Citizens of the US, France, Spain, and Italy remain excluded until further notice. Entries from countries outside the EU/EEA/Schengen are for now not allowed.

Czech Republic: Borders with Austria and Germany reopened on June 5, 10 days earlier than expected. The country opened its frontier with Slovakia and Hungary on May 27, but with restrictions. The other EU countries have been divided into coloured groups dependent on risk: green, orange, and red. From June 15, Czech residents and EU citizens from green countries — eastern and Baltic member states, Finland and Norway — were able to travel to and from the country without any requirements. Those from the yellow group, which includes France, Italy, and Spain, must have a valid health certificate to enter. Test and quarantine conditions will apply for people entering from the UK and Sweden — the two red nations in Europe.

Denmark: From June 15 tourists from Germany, Norway and Iceland have been allowed to travel to Denmark but must show documentation of a valid hotel booking on their arrival. Citizens of other nations are still not permitted to enter Denmark, which imposed one of the earliest and strictest lockdowns in Europe.

Estonia: Opened borders to Baltic neighbours on May 15 and to the rest of the EU, the Schengen area, and the UK on June 1. “Travel documents and medical symptoms are checked” at points of entry, the Foreign ministry said. Those coming from countries with a high infection rate will have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Finland: Finland has allowed travellers from Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from June 15 and recommends against unnecessary travel to other countries. People travelling from these countries also will not need to quarantine. Finland will continue to have border checks with Sweden though the “the aim is to enable unrestricted travel from Sweden to Finland as quickly as the disease situation allows,” Finland’s interior ministry said. Travel for work purposes is possible from EU countries as well as for residents or family purposes. The interior ministry said borders with non-EU countries will remain closed until at least July 14.

France: Travellers from EU member states as well as Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, and the Vatican have been allowed to visit the county since June 15 without a health certificate or any form of quarantine upon arrival. But passengers from Spain and the UK are asked to submit to a voluntary quarantine, “in reciprocity” to current regulations in place in both countries, France’s Foreign Ministry said. President Emmanuel Macron has also announced that international borders with countries outside the EU “where the epidemic has been controlled” will reopen on July 1.

Germany: On June 15, Germany lifted border restrictions for travellers coming from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and the United Kingdom. Germany, however, decided to extend until August 31 its warnings on travelling outside the EU. Those that do manage to get in must self-isolate for 14 days.

Greece: The Foreign Affairs Ministry published on Sunday, May 31, a plan for re-opening borders in three different phases.

Phase 2 saw tourism travel from EU countries resume on June 15, with flights landing in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Travellers coming from Italy, Spain, the Netherlands or Sweden are tested upon arrival until June 30, with the authorities stressing that an overnight stay is required. If the test is negative, travellers can then continue on to their final destination.

Only essential travel from Albania and North Macedonia is permitted while a travel ban from the UK and Turkey is maintained and all visitors are subject to sample testing. Phase 3 is expected to start on July 1. International flights will be allowed into all airports in Greece and all travellers subject to random tests upon arrival. “Additional restrictions regarding certain countries will be announced at a later date”, the Foreign Ministry says. Arrivals by sea will also be allowed on July 1, with travellers subject to random testing.

Hungary: Hungary opened its border with Austria, Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Serbia on June 12 without the need for going into quarantine. Bulgarians may also enter with a special reason such as an official mission or a business trip.

Iceland: Iceland reopened to EU and UK travellers on June 15. Tourists are tested upon arrival. A few hours later, they get the result on their phone, after downloading a tracking app Children born in or after 2005 will be exempt. Authorities are yet to clear procedures for those who test positive.

Ireland: The Irish health authorities currently require anyone coming into Ireland, except from Northern Ireland, to self-isolate for 14 days, upon arrival, including Irish residents. Arrivals have to complete a passenger locator form, although exemptions are in place for providers of essential supply chain services such as hauliers, pilots and maritime staff.

Italy: Italy opened its borders on June 3 to EU, UK, Schengen area, Andorra and Monaco citizens, following the nationwide lockdown which came into force on March 9. Borders also opened with Vatican City and San Marino on this date. Travellers coming from the above countries don’t have to undergo quarantine unless they have been in any other country in the 14 days before reaching Italy. The government dismissed any possible attempt to apply different confinement rules in different regions as “unconstitutional” following spats between local governors. Therefore, the same confinement rules will apply in the same way to all regions. Cruises on Italian ships are currently suspended.

Latvia: Opened its borders to Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania on May 15. Since June 1, there have been no border checks with Lithuania. From June 3 residents of EU and EEA countries, as well as Switzerland, have also been able to enter the country without being submitted to a 14-day quarantine if the country they travelled from has a 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases not exceeding 15 per 100,000 population. Flights to and from European countries where the number of cases per 100,000 within the last 14-day cumulative period is between 15 and 25 can also resume.

Lithuania: Lithuania has opened its borders to citizens from the EU, EEA, Switzerland and the UK provided the incidence of COVID-19 in the country they reside in does not exceed 25 cases per 100,000 population in the last 14 calendar days.

Requirements to self-isolate have been lifted.

Luxembourg: Luxembourg’s border with Germany reopened on May 15 and travel has not been restricted with other European nations, although travel from outside Europe is banned.

Malta: Malta announced that it will reopen tourism travel on July 1. On that date, borders will reopen to travellers from Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Switzerland, the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia, Iceland, Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Israel, Latvia, Estonia, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Poland, Spain, Croatia, and Greece. Restrictions on flights from certain regions in France, Spain, and Italy will, however, continue to apply until July 15 when flight restrictions are expected to be lifted. Malta was the first country in Europe to ban flights from Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland, on March 10.

Montenegro: Entry to Montenegro is allowed without quarantine, so long as you are coming from a country with a rate of transmission less than 25 per 100,000 inhabitants. The Montenegro government is keeping an up to date list of countries where people are allowed to enter from.

The Netherlands: The Dutch government is restricting non-essential travel from people from third countries until July 1, but EU citizens – including British nationals – can now enter the country. Tourists from the UK and Sweden are being urged to self-isolate for 14 days. Like many other nations, there are strict requirements around shaking hands, maintaining social distancing and hand-washing.

Norway: Norway has closed its borders and only travellers for fellow Nordic countries — Denmark, Iceland, and Finland — will be able to return since June 15. Sweden was excluded from the measure. The government is to decide by July 20 whether travellers from other nearby countries can visit but the ministry of foreign affairs is, for now, advising against all non-essential international travel into the country until August 20. Norway currently has a 10-day quarantine for those returning from international travel.

Poland: Borders reopened for EU nationals on June 13 with no quarantine condition. Restrictions on international flights from the bloc were to be lifted on June 16.

Portugal: Nationals of EU countries, Schengen area and passengers on flights from the UK, Brazil, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the US, Canada, Venezuela and South Africa are allowed in the country. Border controls have been in place since March 16. There is currently no requirement for arrivals to go into quarantine, except in The Azores and Madeiras island. Eduardo Cabrita, Portugal’s minister for internal administration, said no decision had been made on when to lift the restrictions.

Russia: On June 8, Russia partially reopened its borders as the country eases coronavirus restrictions. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said that travelling abroad for work, medical or studying purposes will be allowed, as well as for taking care of relatives. He also said Russia will let in foreigners seeking medical treatment or taking care of family members.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters there is “no set date” yet for resuming international flights, which were halted in late March.

Romania: People coming from Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary can go in without the need to quarantine. People coming from EU/EEA/Schengen countries not listed above must still self-isolate for 14 days. Flights to a number of European countries including Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and the UK remain suspended.

Serbia: Serbia’s borders are open.

Slovakia: Slovakia reopened its borders to Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland on June 10. The country’s borders to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic were opened a few days earlier, on June 5.

Slovenia: Slovenia reopened borders to citizens coming from 18 countries on May 15, including neighbouring countries such as Austria, Croatia and Hungary. Montenegro and Italy were added to this list from June 15. Anyone entering from a country with high levels of COVID-19 will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Spain: Spain plans to open its border to Schengen area countries on June 21. Portugal is an exception to this, and the border with Portugal is set to reopen on July 1. Borders with France and Portugal have been closed since March 17, allowing access only to Spanish citizens, people residing in Spain, cross-border workers and those who can provide documentary proof of necessity. None of the regulations are applicable to Andorra or Gibraltar. Currently, people who enter the national territory from abroad must stay in quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. Borders to non-EU countries are expected to reopen on July 1.

Sweden: Sweden has introduced border restrictions but it only applies to non-essential travel from countries outside the EU/EEA, except the UK and Switzerland. That restriction came into effect on March 19 and has been extended until June 30.

Switzerland: Switzerland, who brought in border controls on March 13, reopened borders to all EU countries, the UK, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein on June 15, instead of July 6 as previously planned. Any foreign nationals who currently try to enter Switzerland without a valid residence or work permit will be refused entry. Air passengers from abroad are currently only able to enter the country through the airports at Zurich, Geneva and Basel. The Swiss authorities have not imposed any quarantine measures on persons entering the country. However, you must comply with the government’s hygiene and social distancing rules.

Turkey: Turkey has opened its border to foreign travellers, except for the land border with Iran. Arrivals may have to go through health checks.

United Kingdom: Borders are currently open. Since June 8, visitors from abroad are required to quarantine for 14 days. Those exempt from these measures include people travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

As in other countries, certain professions are exempt from these rules, such as healthcare workers travelling to deliver healthcare in the country. Upon arrival, those who are required to self-isolate need to provide their journey and contact details. The government says these measures will be reviewed every three weeks.

TAKING STOCK

HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY

The past 12 weeks of trading on my portfolio now sees it with a gain of more than 26.1 percent and a cash value of £12615.38.

A reminder that this is all pretend, I started out in lockdown with £10,000 – about Dh45,000 to invest on the London Stock Exchange, I don’t pay for trades and I can only buy or sell when the market is closed. There’s no minimum on the amount of shares I can buy.

On Saturday, I decided to cash out of three stocks but hold on to my 375 in Ryanair. It’s the largest budget carrier in the world and plans to get most of its fleet back into the skies come July 1. I believe the worst of this pandemic has already been priced into the airline’s low stock price and the re-opening will only improve its price. Its only way is up.

So the 375 I hold? I’m going to increase that to 500, buying 125 more shares at Friday’s closing price of £11.56 each. With £8280.38 cash in hand, the new Ryanair shares will cost me £1445.

So what to do with my remaining £6835.38 cash?

JD Weatherspoon is a large operator of pubs and restaurants in Britain and Ireland for the budget conscious. Given that the government in the UK is going to allow pubs to re-open and is very likely to reduce the 2-metre social-distancing rule, I think it will get a boost when the market opens Monday morning.

I’m buying 500 shares at £10.63 each, costing me £5315.00

I’m going to speculate in Vodafone, a mobile phone carrier, with 970 shares for a total of £1518.05

I’ be left with £2.33 cash in hand.

So buckle up, let’s see where this takes me now this week – likely the last week of trading before I conclude this blog and leave lockdown. But what do I know? I’m no expert.

This is how my portfolio stands now:

Net worth £12615.38

Ryanair, 500 shares: £5780.00

JD Weatherspoon, 500 shares: £5315.00

Vodafone, 970 shares: £1518.05

Cash in hand: £2.33

£ loss on last trading day: £268.00

% gain overall: 26.1 per cent

£ Gain overall: £2,615.38

7 OUT OF 10 CANADIAN WOMEN EXPERIENCING ANXIETY

A new survey has found that seven out of 10 Canadian women are experiencing more anxiety, depression, fatigue and isolation because of the increase in unpaid care work they are expected to perform during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1,500 Canadians participated in a wide-ranging survey conducted by Oxfam in May and June that included more than 6,300 men and women from five different countries.

The survey results showed that while men had also taken on more domestic work within the home, the largest chunk of that burden had still fallen to women.

“COVID-19 has blown open the debate about the value of care work in our lives,” Dana Stefov, a women’s rights policy and advocacy specialist with Oxfam Canada, said in a press release. “It has been so invisible, for so long, that it has taken a global pandemic of epic proportions to draw attention to the value of the caring and household work that women do, and the impact it has on their lives.”

And the impact that this added labour had was not equal across all women in Canada.

The survey found that women living in poverty and ethnic and racial minorities suffered the largest economic impact due to increased household burdens during COVID-19. Around half of Indigenous women and 55 per cent of Black women reported struggling financially because of unpaid care work, compared to only 34 per cent of white women.

INDIGENOUS WOMEN MORE AFFECTED

Some women reported having to give up looking for paid work because of increased responsibilities at home being pushed on them. Indigenous women were three times more likely than white women to be faced with this particular struggle, the survey found.

The press release pointed out that women living in poverty often have to spend more time on household chores because of a lack of access to time-saving devices such as dishwashers.

In Canada, many First Nations communities lack access to clean water.

Oxfam conducted national polls in Canada, the US and the UK, and performed smaller surveys in “poor urban communities in the Philippines and informal settlements in Kenya,” according to the press release.

Across these five countries, the average percentage of women experiencing negative mental health due to being saddled with more work during COVID-19 was only 43 per cent, significantly lower than the 71 per cent of Canadian women who reported experiencing these issues, the survey found.

One third of Canadians say their domestic and care work has increased by up to two hours per day during the pandemic.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

I’m not an expert, but I might be able to help you make a bit of sense of this. And we can all get through it together. Isn’t this what this is all about.

Send your questions for me to Readers@gulfnews.com.

That’s it for now. Let’s check in with each other tomorrow. I have used files from Reuters, AP, DW, Sky News, Twitter and other European and North American media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.

Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe

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