CORONAVIRUS

“In London, people don’t seem very concerned about the new coronavirus strain”

Passengers on a flight from the British capital to Valencia said that while airport health controls have been ramped up, many Londoners are still failing to observe safety rules on the street

The Spanish healthcare workers Joan Gisbert (c) and Natalia Requena arriving at Valencia airport on Monday.
The Spanish healthcare workers Joan Gisbert (c) and Natalia Requena arriving at Valencia airport on Monday.Mònica Torres, EL PAÍS / EL PAÍS

A day before Spain’s ban on UK flights was due to go into effect, passengers were reporting heightened health controls at airports but a lack of respect for safety measures in London.

Passengers arriving in Valencia on a Monday flight from the British capital said that they were asked to produce their negative PCR coronavirus test results several times, both at origin and destination. The London-Valencia flight was one of 201 programmed for Monday between the UK and Spanish airports. On Monday, the Spanish government decided to suspend flights arriving from the UK from Tuesday, with exceptions made for Spanish nationals or residents, due to a new strain of the coronavirus.

Several people who landed at Manises airport at 10.10am told EL PAÍS that besides these reinforced controls, their impression was that Londoners do not seem particularly concerned about the new strain of coronavirus that has already caused numerous countries to halt flights from the UK.

“We have seen the [UK] government acting very alarmed and even alarmist since Saturday, but people, at least in London, continue not to wear facemasks on the street,” said Natalia Requena, a healthcare worker who was flying back home for the Christmas holidays. “Many people don’t even wear them on public transportation like the Underground, where it’s mandatory, and all of that is having an effect on incidence, of course. People also don’t seem very concerned about the new coronavirus strain.”

Passengers arriving at Valencia's Manises airport on a flight from London on Monday morning.
Passengers arriving at Valencia's Manises airport on a flight from London on Monday morning. Mònica Torres, EL PAÍS

Both Requena and her partner, Joan Gisbert, work as nurses at King´s College Hospital, in central London, which is currently under confinement orders. “Distances are not observed, either. You see tons of people on the street who are not respecting social distancing. How can all this not affect transmission?” said Gisbert.

Gisbert and Requena moved to London seven years ago in search of job opportunities that they could not find in Spain. They have first-hand experience with the toughest moments of the first wave of the pandemic, when “there were two deaths on every shift.” Now they undergo fast diagnostic tests every week at work. They are flying back to London on January 4, and do not think the new travel restrictions will pose a problem.

Mónica, a Spanish-Mexican citizen with family in Valencia, said she had been asked for her PCR test results three times during the trip. Her view is that things are getting very difficult in London, and that the British government has either “not taken measures, or taken them very late. Things got out of control, and now a lot of people want to leave.”

Hailín Moncada, who was traveling to Castellón with her British husband, has been living in London for the last 20 years. She said that she applauds the additional controls, but could not define the mood on the street. “We are almost always at home, and it depends on who you talk to,” she said.

English version by Susana Urra.

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