Wednesday, September 30th, Month 7 of our Covid-19 Experience.

We are finally here in beautiful Barbados and we made it by the skin of our teeth!

From the 1st of October, the UK will be deemed a high risk country and all visitors to the island will face and mandatory period of quarantine.

It’s been a week since my last post, and four days since we arrived.

Covid Test day was pretty straightforward and everything seemed to be going smoothly. We had a good drive down to Cirencester, the tests were done, we drove them to Cambridge and dropped them off at the lab about midday. We had a drive-through McDonalds to celebrate. Another 2020 first for us. It was another easy drive home, and later we had our final takeaway curry for a while. So far, so good.

Screen 4 assured us that the results would be through within 24 hours, but that deadline came and went and we had heard nothing. It was long and anxious wait. We spent the day doing our final bits of packing, checked in online and picked up the hire car we were going to use to get to Heathrow. But, we couldn’t complete the Barbados Covid- 19 Immigration Forms without our negative test certificate. I was checking my emails every 10 minutes. I felt sick. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

It was odd, but we both felt as though we had developed colds since having the swabs taken. We began to question whether we had somehow picked up the virus! We even briefly discussed the possibility that we had been given it by the swabs and it was all some massive conspiracy! We both went a bit mad that day, waiting for our results. In retrospect, its more likely that our bodies were simply responding to the insult of having our tonsils and noses swabbed fairly vigorously for several seconds.

I managed to speak to Screen 4 on the phone around 3. They confirmed that our tests were negative but that there had been a problem with the certificates and they’d have to get them amended and send them to us later. The good news about the results soon dissipated as we started another period of waiting for the certificates to come through. Later? How much later? What if they didn’t come through in time for us to complete the Immigration Forms. Would they even let us on the plane?

(I did amuse myself by telling M that the reason for the delay was that we had both tested positive and they had had to double check the results. He was trying to relax in the bath at the time. His face was a picture!)

But they did eventually come through, around 6pm. I filled in the forms and we sat down to eat. But, I had absolutely no appetite. I felt mentally and emotionally drained. We were almost there. Just needed to get up in the morning, drive to Heathrow and get on the plane. We fell into bed and set the alarm for 4am.

We set off around 5am the next day (Saturday) and had a straightforward drive . After dropping off the car, it was slightly disconcerting to be transported to the terminal in a tiny mini bus with the driver and another man. We hadn’t been inside a car or vehicle with anyone else for a very, very long time. But, everyone was wearing masks and they were only allowing a maximum of four people on the bus at one time.

Check-in was utter chaos! We arrived just after 7.30 am and a few people were already in the queue. It wasn’t good. It seemed as though lots of people were being turned away because they had had their tests done too early. The cut-off was Wednesday at 2pm. There was crying, yelling and despair. Each check-in took forever and the queue got longer and longer.

When it came to our turn she tried to tell us that we’d had ours too early. She was looking at the time which was 09.30. But, she hadn’t realised that we’d had them on the Thursday and not the Wednesday. We had a moment or two of panic before it was sorted out.

Then, we were through! We had a coffee, our first coffee “out” together since March, and boarded at around 10.00. The flight left late due to the delays at check-in. We heard the staff saying that 40 people had been turned away. When we finally took off about 11.30 am (an hour later than planned) I actually had to fight back the tears of relief.

We watched some movies and tried to relax on the 8 hour flight. I’ll be honest, the whole experience at the airport and on the plane felt incredibly risky compared to how we have been living over the last six months. The only saving grace was that everyone on the plane had tested negative and day or two before.

On arrival in Barbados, we had our test certificates examined before we were allowed to enter the airport. Then, we had a temperature check and had to sanitise our hands. We then had to fill in more paperwork to allow the government health officials to monitor us for the next couple of weeks.

When we went through immigration, they barely looked at our passports and documents. We were expecting to be challenged about our length of stay but no-one said a thing. We were ushered swiftly into another queue where we were given some symptom and temperature forms to fill in twice a day for the next couple of weeks.

And so, here we are. Nicely chilled and settled in for our 6 months in paradise!

Back home the numbers continue to rise. Over 7000 new cases, and around 70 deaths, yesterday and today. We are so lucky! It feels very safe here compared to the UK. Now that we are finally here. I’m going to try to stop thinking and talking about the virus so much. I’ll update this blog as and when there is something significant to report. In the meantime, I’m going to concentrate of 3 projects. Finishing the second draft of Wait for Me, getting the second draft of Rachel written and get that book published, and start work on a new project – The Beaches of Barbados!

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