How a trip to Majorca ended in a nightmare
Joy was locked in quarantine
When Joy (24) left for a summer holiday in Majorca, a little more than three weeks ago, the island was still safe. Travel advisory was yellow, so there was no reason not to go there and soak up the sun, before she’d start as a student assistant at the Green Office.
Then the travel advisory suddenly changed to orange due to rising Covid-19 infections. Returning travellers were highly recommended to self-quarantine for ten days.
Coming back to Groningen, Joy prepared to do just that in her student house. ‘I had thought that despite living with three housemates, wearing a mask and not using the shared kitchen would suffice.’
However, when she landed at Groningen airport Eelde in Drenthe, she was stopped by two people from public health service GGD. They asked about her living conditions. ‘I told them the truth, of course.’ Living in a student house turned out to be a red flag.
‘They continued to ask whether I shared the facilities. Yes. Could I rent a studio to self-isolate? That was not an option. Then they told me I could not use any public transport either, or I wouldn’t be complying with the guidelines. When they told me I couldn’t go home and I had to come with them, I just followed.’
Joy felt that she had no other option than to comply. ‘As a black person, anytime I go to the airport, I am always profiled and questioned by the police – “Are you here on holiday? Where do you live? What do you study?” – such random checks are a part of my life here.’
When they told me I had to come with them, I just followed
Joy still can’t make sense of how it happened. In a rush, she was transported to Heerenveen. She was assigned a room and the doors were locked behind her.
She was so overwhelmed, she forgot to ask any questions about the procedure or about getting tested for Covid-19. ‘I just went along with it and got taken to Heerenveen in a special taxi. I guess I was still in shock.’
Heerenveen – which is approximately sixty kilometres away from both Eelde and Groningen – is home to a special Covid house where people can stay when they are unable to self-isolate. However, staying there is completely voluntary. Joy is not the only student in the Covid house. She knows a Spanish student who was supposed to start his studies in Groningen and move into a student house. ‘We are stuck here together.’
She can pick up prepared meals three times a day – ‘We get a lot of bread for breakfast and lunch’ – or order food online. There is a common area and even a garden, but Joy doesn’t go there. Residents are recommended not to interact with each other.
The spokesperson from the Safety Region Drenthe says it is standard procedure for public health officers to talk to people who arrive from ‘orange’ areas. People are given an information letter in English and Dutch about the coronavirus in the Netherlands and are advised to self-quarantine.
‘Then, they ask if there are people who don’t have a separate living space or if anyone needs to travel by public transportation. We talk to those people to find a solution. They are advised to call a cab, or use the quarantine location in Heerenveen’, she says.
But to Joy, it didn’t feel like ‘advice’ at all. She believed that she would only be allowed to leave on September 5, after she had isolated for ten days. Only after talking to UKrant did she ask the Covid house workers about the voluntary nature of her stay in Heerenveen.
‘I was just told that technically we can opt to leave… and that we are under voluntary quarantine. Even though they didn’t clarify that to me at the airport.’
Her stay has been extremely stressful, she says. ‘I don’t have my freedom, I can’t do what I want, I don’t have what I need to feel at home.’ Last weekend, she suffered a pretty bad breakdown and even asked for a therapist.
In quarantine, Joy has watch parties with her friends. ‘It helps me to feel that I am not completely on my own.’ Her friends joke that she was kidnapped. ‘In my head this is still a dream. It’s unbelievable.’
I’ve been here for six days now. I might as well stay
She feels that the GGD workers at the airport communicated very poorly about the situation and her rights. Resident staff in the Covid house were friendly, but even they were unable to clarify the situation for her.
Had she known the whole thing was voluntary, she would not have agreed to go to the Covid house, she says. She would just have gone home and isolated there as much as possible. However, she’s not going to leave now. ‘I’ve been here for six days now. I might as well stay.’
The spokesperson says she can’t comment on individual situations. She emphasises that it’s hard for people in student houses to properly isolate. ‘That’s why we have the facility in Heerenveen.’