Blind abroad: vaccinated but tested positive during a trip to Europe

April DeMuth and her partner, Warren Watson, had just completed what they described as a perfect vacation in Greece when they took a coronavirus test at Athens airport. They had spent their days sipping coffee on their hotel balcony overlooking the Venetian windmills of Mykonos; drive buggies on the red sand beaches of Santorini; watch the Parthenon turn gold at sunset; and eat gyroscopes at midnight.

Every detail of their trip went smoothly until they lined up for their flight home to South Carolina on August 3, when Mr Watson, 51 – who, along with Ms DeMuth, is fully vaccinated – received an email saying he tested positive for coronavirus.

“We were in total shock and didn’t know what to do,” Watson recalls. “Then 10 minutes later, we got a call from the Greek authorities telling us that they were going to take a van and take us to a quarantine hotel.”

When Europe reopened its borders to Americans in June after a 15-month ban, the highly contagious variant of the Delta coronavirus was not as prevalent as it is today, and groundbreaking infections for people entirely vaccinated were rare. But now, with the Delta strain accounting for over 90% of cases in Europe and the United States, stories of travelers catching the virus overseas – including those who are fully vaccinated – are starting to surface. Their plans have been shattered by mandatory quarantine requirements in different countries.

The Times spoke to 11 people who fell ill with Covid-19 during a recent vacation in Europe and were forced to extend their trips to recover. Among them were adults and children aged 12 to 62, who traveled to Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus.

In Athens, Ms DeMuth and Mr Watson had to spend at least seven days in a quarantine hotel paid for and provided by the Greek government. They were not allowed to leave their rooms until the seventh day and after they both tested negative for the virus.

“It was very well organized and they were extremely nice to us,” Ms. DeMuth said of their early 40s. “They brought us three meals a day and everything we ordered over the internet was delivered to our door.”

“I mean we’re going a little crazy,” Watson added in a recent phone interview from the hotel where they were in quarantine. “We are not allowed to leave our room and there is a major heat wave and fires in the area, but we can still stick our heads out the window. “

The couple suspect they caught the virus in South Carolina in July before traveling to Greece. Ms DeMuth had mild cold-like symptoms that passed quickly, and Mr Watson said he felt some discharge down his throat on the way to the airport, but assumed it These were allergy symptoms, which are common for him at this time of year.

“We had our vaccination cards, we felt healthy, we’re in our 50s, it really didn’t occur to us that we had Covid,” Ms DeMuth said.

Greece does not require fully vaccinated visitors to provide a coronavirus test before entering the country; therefore, Mr Watson did not realize he was likely a carrier of the virus until the end of their trip. Looking back, Ms DeMuth, who is travel associate for Valerie Wilson Travel, a FROSCH company, said that due to the highly transmissible nature of the Delta variant, she would recommend being tested before departure as an added precaution, even if it is not required by the destination.

“Even if you don’t have any symptoms and don’t feel sick, you don’t want to put other communities at risk,” she said.

And, of course, there is also the risk that American travelers will be infected at their destination. Although most European countries are open to American travelers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added several to its list of Level 4 or very high-risk destinations, including France, Iceland and Great Britain. , due to the high infection rates in these countries.

When Skylor Bee-Latty, a 28-year-old search engine optimization manager, flew from Washington, DC to London in early June to visit her boyfriend, Alex Camp, she had to pass four tests. virus in 10 days and quarantine for five days before she was free to travel through Britain. Even then, the vaccinated couple proceeded with caution, choosing a secluded spot in Wales for their first vacation together in a year.

Days after their trip began, they received a notification on a government tracking app asking them to self-isolate for 10 days due to possible exposure to the virus. They cut their trip short and returned to the city of Manchester, where Mr. Camp lives.

“We were really surprised when we got the notification as we were already isolating ourselves in a chalet and only really came into contact with a few people when we went to a pub or restaurant,” she said. .

After 10 days of home isolation and several negative virus tests, the two were free to travel again, but this time they decided to stay in Manchester and enjoy the Euro 2020 Championship football matches in pubs. Three weeks later, around July 10, as the Delta variant surged through Britain, Ms Bee-Latty and Mr Camp started to feel unwell.

“The first few days I was nauseous, but one day I woke up and my head was completely blocked, it was difficult to open my eyes, then my boyfriend started to have tickles in his throat. , and I had aches and pains in my body, ”she said. “It all escalated pretty quickly and before we knew it we tested positive and found ourselves isolated. “

By August, Ms Bee-Latty had spent over four weeks of her trip in quarantine and even after her recovery, it took a long time to stop feeling so lethargic and confused.

“I still don’t feel good so I’m taking it day to day,” she said. “I had planned to visit my family in Italy, but right now I’m just watching to see how the numbers go because even though I’m traveling and have recently recovered from Covid, I still want to be smart about of it. “

“My sister has had Covid three times, so there is always a chance I could have it again,” she added.

Many travelers who booked their summer vacations to Europe in June said they had not considered the consequences of what would happen if they fell ill while on vacation, including the financial setback of having to pay for additional accommodation, food, flight change fees and additional charges. leave.

Most European countries do not cover quarantine accommodation, which can add an additional seven to 21 days to a trip, depending on a country’s quarantine mandate. Last month, Louise Little, a 42-year-old personal trainer, spent $ 1,800 to extend her Airbnb in Spain after testing positive for the virus a day before her scheduled departure from Barcelona to return home to New York.

“When I saw the result, I wanted to die,” recalls Mrs. Little, who was fully vaccinated. “I had no symptoms and just to think of all the people I had come in contact with in all the places I had been during my 10 day vacation. I feel really bad.

When Ms Little booked travel insurance for her trip, she assumed she would cover all expenses related to the coronavirus, but when she applied for an extension of her accommodation, she was turned down on the grounds that only treatments medical and hospitalizations were covered.

“To be honest at the time I didn’t think about reading the fine print because I was fully vaccinated and it didn’t occur to me that I would catch the virus,” he said. she declared. “I think a lot of people like me who are young, healthy and vaccinated felt invincible at the start of the summer, but that has changed now with the Delta. Traveling has become quite risky again.

Follow the journey of the New York Times on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And subscribe to our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter for expert advice on smarter travel and inspiration for your next vacation.

Comments are closed.