Waiting to Exhale (without a Mask)

By William J. Furney

Families are having to pay many hundreds of euros for negative coronavirus tests to get into places like Spain, placing an additional burden on them in a tumultuous year of stress and loss they could well do without. 

The requirement came in this week as Spanish authorities sought to keep the contagion out as cases and deaths continue to fall in the country amid a second wave of the lingering, multi-pronged virus that has so far claimed over 44,600 lives in Spain and 1.45 million globally. 

But Span said this week that almost no one was bringing the bug in on flights or ferries — one figure I saw was 0.03% of foreign arrivals who had subsequently tested positive. So why slap a test-before-arrival on people and further destroy our travel desires and the country’s vital tourism industry, which currently lays in tatters, with many hotels closed?

A British woman who lives with her daughter in Barcelona told the El Pais newspaper this week she’d been planning a trip to England to see her family for Christmas, but the £400 required for coronavirus tests to get back into Spain after the celebrations was too much and she scrapped her festive travel plans. 

With the tests costing far more than flights, many others are likely to do the same. It’s possible the rona jab and its many options and efficacy levels might bring an end to the test-before-travel requirement, but it’s likely still months off before most of us get vaccinated — and who’s going to be first in line anyway?

Apart from the elderly and their weaker immune systems, there’s talk that the obese might be among those first in the inoculation line. Boris Johnson has famously said he was “too fat” at the time he caught corona and that that was why he struggled so badly with it, and ended up in intensive care. Is it ethical or moral to prioritise the obese over the fit and healthy when allocating a novel coronavirus vaccine? 

Few would argue that the morbidly overweight are in their health-compromised state because they can control what they eat — for whatever reason, be it greed, gluttony or psychological — and they mostly don’t exercise because they’re unable to move their giant frames about. 

Meanwhile, people like me who invest lots of time, energy and money into being as fit and healthy as possible — working out, running, strictly adhering to a vegan diet — are shoved to the back of the queue. I’m not saying I want the jab, and I may have it due to travels, but what’s next, putting smokers and their equally compromised health above everyone else?

Neither the obese nor smokers take responsibility for the toxins they stick in their mouths, yet when there’s a chance they might expire, everyone else, including the fit and healthy, is pushed aside. Didn’t they learn in school that you can’t pass exams by failing to do anything and then expect to outshine the top performers?

If there’s one thing this global pandemic has taught us, it’s the value of health, and how easy it is to lose it, and die, as the British prime minister was in danger of doing back in April. At least he has owned up to his own health failings, and is taking action to get fitter and healthier. 

And it may be prescient at this point to mention not how much we eat but what. Health officials believe this pandemic originated from bats on sale for human consumption at a market in China; Asia has been the scene of several health emergencies, including bird flu, in recent times. 

Today it emerged — just in time for Christmas — that thousands of turkeys are to be culled on a farm in North Yorkshire, England, after an outbreak of bird flu. “Avian flu has been confirmed at a commercial turkey fattening farm near Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and all the remaining turkeys at the farm will be culled,” said Christine Middlemiss, the chief veterinary officer of the United Kingdom, as an estimated 10,500 yuletide birds waited to die. 

As we try to celebrate the end of the worst year in living memory (let’s ditch the celebrations), pass on the deadly meat. Maybe then we can all start to breathe easily again.

  • Title image is by and of masked-up me, and steward, on a recent flight. 

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