For the moment, London bankers can feel smug: while banks like Goldman Sachs are restricting travel to Italy in light of the 453 coronavirus cases in the country, London has one confirmed case – or maybe two at the most.
A 35-year-old Italian ‘finance professional’ named Achille suggests this situation may not prevail for long.
Speaking in Italy’s La Stampa newspaper, Achille, who ‘works in the City of London,’ said he flew into the UK after a few days in Italy in January, leaving from an airport near Turin West of Milan. While there were “meticulous” checks for the virus at the Italian airport, he told La Stampa there were no checks at all at Gatwick: “No one stopped me and I didn’t seen any thermal scanners.”
Achille says he subsequently started to feel feverish and went to a private clinic with a cough and respiratory problems. He was advised to call NHS 111 (the UK government's health advice number), but because his own trip to Italy preceded the outbreak of the virus 111 told him he wasn’t eligible for a test – even though his Italian wife recently returned from Italy and her family frequent the now affected area. Achille told La Stampa that a young South Korean in his London office had been given similar advice: despite having symptoms he too was informed by 111 that he wasn't eligible for a test as he couldn’t pinpoint exposure to a particular case of the virus.
At issue appears to be the fact that London finance professionals, particularly from overseas, are accustomed to using private healthcare rather than the NHS. However, private health providers are not equipped to test for COVID-19. BUPA, for example, is advising patients to call 111, as is the RoodLane Medical Centre in Canary Wharf. As a result, bankers who would willingly pay for a test - and who are used to immediate screenings under private heathcare - are unable to secure one. RoodLane told us it's receiving multiple enquiries about tests but it simply referring everyone to the NHS.
“If you have not come into direct contact with infected people, there is nothing we can do about it. We don't have a swab," Achilles was told. "I hope I'm wrong, but I think the health authorities are underestimating this situation," his private doctor reportedly added.
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