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Visit Britain, my friends said – just don’t bring the plague back here | Emma Brockes

No one chooses their holiday destination on the basis of domestic policies. But in this case, it’s hard to ignore them

Two weeks ago, before travelling from America to Britain, I shared my plans with a couple of friends. Both made faces at mention of Britain. One expressed amazement that I would consider travelling to a country widely perceived to have given up on trying to stop Covid; the other made a remark about community safety. “I’m triple vaxxed,” I said, taken aback by her vehemence, but this didn’t wash. “Just don’t bring it back here,” she said, darkly.

It is impossible to live abroad for any length of time – with the exception, perhaps, of moving to Gibraltar – and retain a sense of Britain as the centre of the universe, as a place so important it deserves the endless allowances it asks be made for it. Still, while I’m not under any illusions about my country’s shortcomings, it was strange to hear it referred to in the manner of the kid in class the others mock for spreading germs. Boris Johnson is ludicrous wherever you live, and no one in Britain seems able to settle on a mask policy. And yet the idea that, with international travel finally opening up again, it is unwise to the point of recklessness to visit the place triggered a tiny ping of defensiveness I had no idea was still in my system. We might suck in all sorts of ways – but nobody’s perfect.

Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist

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