Holibob hullaballoos

Oh, this year I am off to Sunny Spain,
Viva, Espana,
I’m taking the Costa Brava plane

Here’s a thought: Just because something can be done, is allowed to be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.

Suitcase: check. Factor 50 sunblock: check. Swimming cossie: check. Flip-flops: check: Floppy sunhat: check. Something floaty and cool to wear at cocktail hour: check. Passport: check. Wallet of monopoly-type money: check. Cheap-as-chips insurance policy booked-online: check. Agreement from boss to stay home for a fortnight post-holiday:….Oh.

The papers are full of disastrous headlines of holidays ruined by a UK government that dangled the Costa-del-Sol carrot and then cruelly whipped it away once the poor punters were airborne. For once, I am not up in arms at the government over their handling of this. It wasn’t that long ago that we were all slagging them off for their early handling of the pandemic by NOT introducing quarantine quickly enough, by NOT shutting down the economy two weeks earlier. Now they have acted decisively and it’s too severe, with not enough wiggle-room for returning travellers from places like the Balearics where, apparently, the Covid-19 infection rates are far lower than on the mainland. So far.

The dilemma for many UK holiday-makers is this: Do they

  1. take unpaid leave for two weeks post-holiday, always assuming they are in a role in a business that can handle them effectively being away for a month
  2. work from home for a further two weeks if they can, keeping isolated with the family yet again, which will probably undo most of the good the holiday did
  3. alternatively, cancel the holiday and lose the money.

Of course, many of the people who now find themselves wondering whether their two-week bake is going to be worth the angst when they get back are going away because they are on pre-booked trips that in many cases have been transferred from Easter or the May half-term. Many of them felt they had no choice but to re-book for later in the Summer. I’m one of those people who leaves any holiday plans to the last minute anyway so when the pandemic hit, I had no plans which could be scuppered. So, I have the luxury of being able to be sanguine about this. I get that.

However. 2020 was the year we got a global pandemic. People died. Are still dying. All over the world. People found themselves stranded in hotels in Tenerife, Spain, Italy, Morocco, on cruise ships…… unable to get flights back. By the end of March, one-third of the world’s population was in, or had been in, some form of lockdown.

There was always, always going to be a risk of local lockdowns and quarantine once lockdowns were eased across Europe. When it started easing the UK lockdown, the government said we would need to quarantine. Then it changed its mind because circumstances changed and infection rates in popular holiday destinations started to fall. Then the rates went back up again, probably as a result of people travelling more and more and, boom, quarantine is back on the menu. If we had a proper testing regime for passengers arriving in the UK, it would be different. But we don’t. And that’s part of the problem.

We’ve had localised lockdowns over here already. There is nothing to say that the sort of closure we’ve seen in Leicester couldn’t happen in Marbella or Magaluf, given a sudden spike in those areas. Sure, governments round the globe whose economies rely on the tourist dollar want to see their beach bars and hotels filled again but they also don’t want to see their hospitals and ICU wards filled to overflowing again.

For me, personally, if I am going to go on holiday, I want to do it properly. I want to be able to go to the beach and sit where I like. I want to wander around and choose a restaurant for lunch without having to sit in a Perspex box and order my albondigas, rioja and patatas bravas on my phone. I want to wander round the tourist-tat places and handle knick-knacks that I have no intention of buying. I don’t want to queue to get on the beach nor turn up at Gatwick for my flight to discover that the whole world has been there for eight hours ‘just in case’. In short, I want normal life back.

Unfortunately, there is no magic gauntlet; a snap of the fingers won’t re-set the world (guess what I’ve spent lockdown watching!) We are in this for the long-haul and that means we can’t take anything for granted. We have to asses the risks and act accordingly. I don’t necessarily mean the risk of getting ill or passing the virus on, but the risk of plans being summarily changed by forces beyond our individual control.

It is what it is.



About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

Check Also


It just doesn’t stop

Because no matter who we are or where we come from, we’re all entitled to …