TPM Reader BR’s turning points on the COVID19 Crisis while traveling abroad …
We left the US on 29 January for a 9 week stay in Ireland (through 5 April), to have been followed by 20 days in Portugal and Spain. Trip started off well enough when we realized that the legendary John Prine was on the same flight, and he was gracious enough to give us 20 minutes of his time chatting about all the places in Ireland he thought we should visit while we waited to board.
We had seen news about the new virus in China, and were carrying hand sanitizer and surgical masks in our luggage, because we were going to be in more airports in that 3 months than we usually pass through in 3 years. And airports are always centers for contagion. But once we arrived and settled into our Cork apartment, we simply set about having a great time and keeping a slight eye on developments. First inkling that things were getting real came on 26 February when the Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy was initially postponed. We had been hoping to see the U-20s play in Cork on 6 March. Looking over my blog and Facebook posts, that’s the first mention of the virus impacting lives in Ireland. It still wasn’t a serious threat, as Italy was heavily impacted, but Ireland still had just the one confirmed case on 1 March.
The real turning point was twelve days later, on 9 March. Confirmed infections were still only 21 in Ireland at that time, but all St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were canceled. My posts indicate that was the first time we thought seriously about cutting our stay short, and canceling our planned visit to Paris on 21 March, and our Portugal trip. By the 12th, Trump had announced that the US was closing off entry to Europeans, and we were hip deep in phone calls to airlines and hotels. We debated trying to ride things out in Ireland, but we only had a place to stay into early April, and it seemed that we would be better off in our own home. We flew back from Dublin on 15 March to Philadelphia (one of the last flights before mandatory screening for returning citizens went into effect), and drove from Philadelphia back to North Carolina on the 16th. Self-isolated for two weeks after that – it took 3 1/2 hours to clear Irish security, US security, and US Customs at the Dublin airport, all of it spent in very close contact with hundreds of other travelers in the same situation as us. Fortunately, neither of us developed symptoms, and we’ve been mostly at home, except for an occasional food run, since then.
As to the future, as armed citizens demand that states stop their interventions to save lives and continue to put the rest of us at risk, i wonder at what point European and Asian countries will simply close their borders to Americans on a more or less permanent basis.
John Prine died of complications of COVID19 on April 7th.
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