The last Ryanair flight (for a while) FR8404 to Stansted left Brno last Friday with Charles du Parc on it. Unfortunately for him he also had to find a way to return to Brno after the weekend and that’s where the troubles began. He also saw first hand the different ways London and Brno are dealing with COVID-19. Photo credit: Freepik / For illustrative purposes.
Travelling at the moment has become an ordeal with not only the usual transport disruption but also new regulations that seem to change almost daily. Only a few days before I had booked a Brno to Stansted ticket to return on Monday. Then on Thursday 12th March the state of emergency was declared. That night at about 7pm Ryanair sent a message that my Monday Brno flight had been cancelled; this was due to Prague being designated the only entry point for international travellers. Then the realisation hit that the UK had been included on the list of high risk countries on which travel restrictions were going to be applied – some immediate and others ramping up on the 14th and then again on the 16th. This was getting personally serious. If I left, would I be able to get back and what about my daughter still in London? The trip had to go ahead and if I was stuck in London, so be it. The priority was to book flight tickets so we could return. My usual alternative airport, Vienna, would no longer have train or bus links, so I re-booked to fly from Stansted to Prague on Sunday as I would, at least, fly into the right country.
“In Brno the schools had been closed down, a state of emergency had been declared and all international connections severed. In London, life seemed pretty normal.”
On Friday, Brno airport was lacking the usual bustle in anticipation of a Ryanair departure. The flight was a little over half full. Expat workers and a few families were spread around the terminal. A subdued atmosphere, or was that just in my head. Most of the travellers seemed relaxed, so perhaps it was the thought of having a return journey in three day’s time that was affecting my mood. The flight was pretty uneventful and the arrival in Stansted not noticeably different to normal…
“The owner of the nearby convenience store said he had seen a big drop in footfall in the previous couple of days and tried to sell me 50ml of hand gel for 5.49 (165kc) and some dubious Turkish alcohol based cologne – 70% I was assured.”
In Brno the schools had been closed down, a state of emergency had been declared and all international connections severed. In London, life seemed pretty normal. Shops were busy and the pubs seemed full of people; I even overheard a phone call where a guy was speaking about his great night with his friends at a nightclub on Saturday. The media was full of government ministers being questioned about their inaction compared to many other European countries. But they insisted they were just following the scientific advice. Londoners, however, were not unaware of what was happening on the other side of the channel and the supermarkets were showing more empty shelves than I had seen in Brno. No toilet paper or disinfectant, but plenty of flour; maybe there are not so many home bakers in London. The owner of the nearby convenience store said he had seen a big drop in footfall in the previous couple of days and tried to sell me 50ml of hand gel for 5.49 (165kc) and some dubious Turkish alcohol based cologne – 70% I was assured.
Sunday started with the unwelcome news that our easyJet flight was delayed 90 minutes, however the coach to Stansted actually arrived 20 minutes early due to the lack of traffic. Those of you who have fought their way through Stansted will know that your first objective is to get through the security check. There are usually about 20 or more checking stations open and even then you can queue for 15 to 20 minutes. Today I counted 4 checking stations open with about 4 people queuing at each. In any other circumstance the airport would have been a pleasure, plenty of seats and no queuing anywhere. EasyJet were also playing with our emotions; an update that our plane was now on time was followed half an hour later by another that we would be leaving 45 minutes late, which turned out to be accurate. The Czech government had obviously done their job of informing airlines of the new restrictions as the gate staff vetted everyone’s travel documents before calling the flight.
“The flight was about half full and many passengers were wearing masks.”
The flight was about half full and many passengers were wearing masks. My thoughts were about what would meet us in Prague. Before flying I checked if I could use public transport. My understanding was that whilst not illegal, it was to be strongly discouraged. So, a call to relatives resulted in a two car shuttle from Brno to Prague airport, as, understandably, the relatives were not keen on spending two hours cooped up with two people in quarantine and leaving themselves liable to being quarantined. On landing we proceeded to immigration, where there were much longer queues than usual. For once choosing the quickest queue wasn’t any help – the officer in the booth looked at my passport and residence permit and told us to go to the immigration police office. There the officer took my documents and disappeared through a door. After 10 minutes he came out to speak to a foreign woman who had arrived with just her passport. She was obviously told that she needed an official residence permit and began to look somewhat distressed. She said she worked in Prague and she produced a health insurance card. After a few more words, the officer was satisfied and let her through. It took another 10 minutes for him to come back to me with the admonishment that the passport entry in my residence permit was out of date – it had been amended, but he hadn’t noticed. But the main thing was that I was back in the Czech Republic.
Soon after I received a text message from the Health Ministry informing me that travellers from a high risk country had to spend 14 days in quarantine and must inform my doctor of this fact BY TELEPHONE.
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