Testing for travel

T2 at London Heathrow

Setting out my notes from the recent trip from the US to Scotland, prompted by a request from someone else who was also making that journey.  

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-international-travel-quarantine/pages/red-amber-and-green-list-countries/  is the starting point.  The US is an ‘amber country’ from the point of view of the UK. 

Assuming you have been fully vaccinated, you need the US CDC card, and proof of your US address. 

Within 3 days of  travel, you need to take a PCR test, or an antigen test which meets “standards of ≥97% specificity and ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml”  . Since I was on an overnight flight, and most of the test places I talked to sent out their tests to an external lab, I chose to have a PCR  test done at  https://covidclinic.org/palo-alto-ca/ which offered a ‘results in an hour’ option, rather than depend on people offering no better than 48 hours for results delivery. I chose to print the result so as to have it as part of my documentation at the airport. 

Within  48 hours before  arrival in the UK you need to complete a passenger locator form. This includes the flight number and arrival time, and won’t let you finish the form until 48 hours before.

What you can do in advance is book and pay for the required PCR test that is sent by post to the address where you are going to be staying; that booking produces a reference number for the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) . The UK  form applies for entry to Scotland https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk . I printed the PLF – the airline checks it, and it is checked again at the UK border.

The PCR test comes from the recommended supplier .. you don’t have to pick one.  This is self-testing, where you run the swab then put it in the tube that comes with the kit, and put the whole thing in a little cardboard folded up box, which goes into a ‘priority postbox’ to be sent to a lab. 

It is possible to pick up, from a pharmacy, lateral flow tests which the  National Health Service makes available free.  These are not an alternative to the required PCR test, but are useful for peace of mind and to self check before the test you have to take before you leave the UK again. 

Travel to the US Test taken within 3 days of travel.

It turns out that an antigen test, although not a self administered test, is sufficient. Newington Pharmacy in Edinburgh had a turn round time of 15 minutes, given an advance booking, for giving me the printed result. A picture of that result, uploaded to the airline check in process, meant I could get a printed boarding pass, and so change terminals airside in Heathrow. 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html

A test result must be in the form of written documentation (paper or electronic copy). The documentation must include:

Type of test (indicating it is a NAAT or antigen test)

Entity issuing the result (e.g. laboratory, healthcare entity, or telehealth service)

Specimen collection date. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within the 3 days before the flight. A positive test result for documentation of recovery from COVID-19 must show the specimen was collected within the 3 months before the flight.

Information that identifies the person (full name plus at least one other identifier such as date of birth or passport number)

Test Result

The least efficient part of the whole travel process was return immigration at San Francisco. If I’d know ahead of time about the Mobile Passport Control app, it would have saved an hour of standing in line. https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/mobile-passport-control “Travelers using MPC will be directed to a specific processing lane for a streamlined entry process.” This did happen. 

The above is accurate at 09 August 2021. When I travelled in July there was a requirement for 10 days of isolation in Scotland, which I dutifully completed. Since then that requirement no longer applies if you have been fully vaccinated. Expect the rules to change again.

15 August – adding a link to a broad review of worldwide travel attitudes from governments from The Economist, and quoting the most pertinent section on testing for travel https://www.economist.com/international/2021/08/14/travel-chaos-will-last-well-beyond-summer

“Many of the safety measures that accompany partial reopening are flawed. Asking someone to isolate at home cuts their contact with the outside world by 75%, compared with 90% for hotel quarantines, reports the Lancet. Another study suggests that a costly polymerase-chain-reaction (pcr) test before a flight is worse than a cheaper alternative. It is more accurate than an antigen test, but slower. So travelers have more time to get infected between clinic and boarding gate. A negative antigen test taken on the day of a trip, as many EU states accept, reduces the number of infected people who make it over a border to 24% of levels without any testing compared with 33% for a pcr test taken two days before a flight.”

Local Case count in 2021

Now that the stability of the Santa Clara County testing dashboards has improved, time to add an update for the end of March.

Comparing the test positivity rate to the last numbers in early December, things seem much improved. We shall see whether there have been enough vaccinations locally to maintain this improvement in the face of the new variants which are affecting other states. Los Altos cumulative case count 648, 94022 zip code 402.

Orange Tier risk reduction order effective 24 March 2021 https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/order-health-officer-10-05-20.aspx

Tracking local case count

And on 8 Dec 2020 ” The high volume of newly reported cases has caused delays in processing new cases; as a result, the number of new cases and the number of cumulative cases is currently underreported.” San Mateo County Health Officer statement on the State Stay at Home order https://www.smchealth.org/health-officer-updates/december-7-2020-health-officer-statement

At 7 Dec 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 234. 94022 zip code case rate 164 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 5.4% , from 1.6% on 22 October

At 5 Dec 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 226. 94022 zip code case rate 158 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 4.7% , from 1.6% on 22 October

At 3 Dec 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 221. 94022 zip code case rate 153 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 4.0% , from 1.6% on 22 October

At 2 Dec 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 217. 94022 zip code case rate 151 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.7% , from 1.6% on 22 October

At 1 Dec 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 212. 94022 zip code case rate 148 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.5% , from 1.6% on 22 October

At 29th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 208. 94022 zip code case rate 147 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.4% , from 1.6% on 22 October

At 28th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 198. 94022 zip code case rate 142 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.3% , from 1.6% on 22 October

At 25th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 186. 94022 zip code case rate 131 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.4% , from 1.6% on 22 October.

At 24th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 184. 94022 zip code case rate 130 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.4% , from 1.6% on 22 October.

At 23rd Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 181. 94022 zip code case rate 129 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.4% , from 1.6% on 22 October.

22 Nov 2020

At 22th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 178. 94022 zip code case rate 127 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.3% , from 1.6% on 22 October.

At 20th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 174. 94022 zip code case rate 123 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.2% , from 1.6% on 22 October.

At 19th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 174. 94022 zip code case rate 123 . The test positivity rate (7 day lagging average) is now 3.0% , from 1.6% on 22 October.

At 18th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 166. 94022 zip code case rate 118

At 17th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 166. 94022 zip code case rate 115

At 16th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 163. 94022 zip code case rate 118.

At 15th Nov 2020, Los Altos cumulative case count reported 163. 94022 zip code case rate 112.

Source https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/dashboard-cases-by-zip-code-and-city.aspx

The Dragon

Robert Heinlein, in the story ‘The Man who sold the Moon’ , predicted the forming of a private company which built a rocket to go to the Moon, and enabled the formation of a colony there – in 1950. I didn’t read it until much later – my first Heinlein story was ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’, set on the moon colony.

In August 2020, the Dragon spacecraft built by Space X successfully returned two astronauts from the Space Station to a splashdown landing in the Gulf of Mexico. Images which follow are screen captures from the NASA livestreams.

On the pad
The capsule
21 seconds up
Returned

Never waste a good crisis

The Scottish government has a committee, the Scottish Advisory group on Economic recovery  “to provide independent expert advice on supporting the sectors and regions of Scotland’s economy to recover from the impact of Covid-19”. I was asked to contribute to the consultation which took place last week (closing date 31 May)

Gathering together my responses, paraphrasing the questions, and adding a list of references : 

Q: What will be the shape and form of the recovery from the crisis and what will be the implications for the future growth and structure of the economy?

What are the opportunities to boost private consumption to stimulate the recovery ? 

Which aspects of regulation might be relaxed to stimulate growth ?

A: View from Silicon Valley :  The construction business is back in full swing.  Large companies (Facebook, Google, Cisco, Microsoft) have moved smoothly to Working from Home and are going to continue doing that. Their user conferences and most other conferences have changed to being remote only. Sectors of the economy which have been impacted most severely, which have laid off most people, are non-essential retail stores, followed by restaurants. 

There’s an opportunity for a dramatic re-think of the concept of the ‘working week’, following on from WFH and the income support which has happened.  4 day weeks, enabling more businesses to be open every day, with support for scheduling so that people can usually spend their days off with family and friends, would enable more people to have flexibility in their lives between paid and volunteer work.

Trying to stimulate growth in take out food and non-essential retail would be a mistake, although income support for the employees is critical. There are opportunities for employment in essential retail, which needs more people and hours to maintain distancing and cleanliness.  

Q: What are the medium- to long-term consequences of the lockdown on businesses, including loss of employees, debt overhang, loss of markets, reduced investment and unemployment? 

A: The medium to long term consequences can be very positive; there has been a forced acceleration of companies retraining their teams to work in a distributed, remote, highly digital world.  Doing this well and early can be a competitive advantage; Scottish companies could offer remote teams who deliver work all over the world without having to travel there.  

Q: What can be done now to ensure the transition to a wellbeing-oriented, inclusive economy on a transition to net zero ?

How can the wellbeing of the people of Scotland flourish and what are the environmental implications of the crisis?

A: Three big things : infrastructure investment in Internet communications; enabling conversion of office and retail space to insulated residential accommodation with room for WFH; rethink transport policies to encourage electric bicycle and economical small scale delivery and pickup for physical goods going to consumers.

  1. Provision of fibre for broadband network has been a political minefield and remains inadequate for WFH over much of the country. Private only provision has not been effective. Cellular networks are not an adequate substitute.  Sweden’s strategy, for “market-driven development, completed by public efforts” is worth emulating.  

There’s a proposal for the creation of a National Investment Authority (NIA) by Cornell University law professors Saule Omarova and Robert C. Hockett, worth considering for the Scottish Investment Bank.

  1. WFH, made possible by improved communication infrastructure, reduces commuting costs, which reduces pollution and energy use as well as saving time and frustration. Every effort should be made to encourage this to continue.  This implies that office space should be able to be converted into residential accommodation.  The collapse in non-essential retail is an opportunity to take advantage of those existing buildings, particularly in small towns where the high street has been hollowed out, to convert them for residential use, with requirements in building codes for insulation and heat pumps. 
  1. Continuing the reduction in vehicle traffic which happened in the lockdown while enabling people to have freedom of movement requires a system scale re-think. Encouraging cycling, particularly e-bike use (as in the Netherlands and Germany) for personal transport and local deliveries, would contribute to well-being. 

References

Call for views https://consult.gov.scot/economic-development/call-for-views-advisory-group-on-economic-recovery/

https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2020/05/21/broadband-gap-covid-19-airband/

https://www.government.se/496173/contentassets/afe9f1cfeaac4e39abcdd3b82d9bee5d/sweden-completely-connected-by-2025-eng.pdf

http://www.circleid.com/posts/20200525-public-and-private-infrastructure-investment-alternatives/

https://www.oreilly.com/tim/21stcentury/

https://www.economist.com/business/2020/05/30/working-life-has-entered-a-new-era

https://www.blog.google/inside-google/working-google/working-from-home-and-office/ Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet Published May 26, 2020

https://www.specialityfoodmagazine.com/news/are-we-on-the-brink-of-a-british-food-revolution