Between Friday and Monday, 40,000 people came to Poland from the United Kingdom, with 10,000 arriving on Monday, but at least 25,000 Poles are still stuck in the UK due to concerns over the mutated coronavirus. The panic that followed after discovering the new virus strain will most affect the families of Polish emigrants who were planning to spend Christmas together. The issue is not affecting just those flying either. A massive number of drivers from Poland were blocked from reaching Poland after France closed the Eurotunnel, which means they will probably be late for Christmas in their home country. Poles have an outsized impact in the UK and Europe.
The Polish transportation industry is one of the most powerful ones in Europe. A massive number of Polish shops are also running in the UK. After all, we keep racing the Indians for first place in the category of the largest minority in the UK. The British do not like the restrictions and fear an extended lockdown, with grumblines about the lockdowns prevalent in the UK for months, but no one expected that it could get even worse. This is why many Poles planned to return home for Christmas despite having to be quarantined on arrival. Now, for many, it turns out that there will be no quarantine because they simply will be unable to spend Christmas in Poland. Plane ticket refunds from LOT Polish Airlines are one small consolation but longing for family, which is already very rough for emigrants, will remain a problem. LOT increased flights on Monday from the UK to Poland as it raced to get Poles home before the borders closed, which is no surprise considering the airline company is using this period to serve increased demand for flights. Chaos begets chaos and the uncertainty is meant to last a while. This all may reflect in the support for particular political parties. What is more surprising is that passengers from the UK are not being directed into quarantine, or even asked to self-isolate. After Dec. 27, everyone who arrives in Poland via group transport will have to do so, and not just from the UK. The passengers are encouraged to take free coronavirus tests. Yet, only around 700 people have reported to the health department to take one.
An interesting solution here could be the Irish one, where passengers are asked to self-isolate, which includes avoiding large groups and limit travelling. No one is being forced to stay at home, but they are asked to be responsible. Although the decision to tighten restrictions in Poland after Christmas was made earlier, there are many such coronavirus absurdities brought on by sometimes inconsistent rules. The intentions are usually clear as each government in the world is trying to contain the pandemic. Citizens across the world will also undoubtedly grow agitated and even rebellious when decisions are made which limit their freedom and even ruin Christmas or holiday plans. To add to do this, there is the uncertainty whether one will be able to return to work from Poland to the UK. The UK government is already asking to postpone Brexit. Chaos begets chaos and the uncertainty will no doubt last a while. If we add the issue of vaccines, which are already available in the UK, the next months may deepen uncertainty and the divisions between the supporters and opponents of vaccines and more restrictions. These splits in public opinion will eventually feed into support for different political parties. This will not just happen in Poland, but in the world as a whole. In our country, the pandemic has not shifted voter preferences so much, but many are disdainful towards the Polish government introducing restrictions. And we already have examples from elsewhere, such as Donald Trump’s defeat in the United States. The warning is clear and economic and social consequences are slowly becoming more apparent. We will still have to wait a while to see the political impact in our country.
Title image: Lorries are parked on the M20 near Folkestone, Kent, England as part of Operation Stack after the Port of Dover was closed and access to the Eurotunnel terminal suspended following the French government’s announcement, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, AP Images.