Breathe.. Breathe…Have some water, if needed.. breathe…
No no, those instructions are not for me, they are for the select few who read my blog and who are gasping at the title.. Who are giving me angry glares & stares for travelling during Covid times~
Well, since March 2020, I have stepped out very few times, in fact it would be under 10 outings and some of them were to the grocery store or pharmacy, while others to meet friends or just a brief getaway from home/restore my sanity moments. But then, I have also realized that just because am staying cooped up at home, doesn’t mean I am completely immune to the virus, there are others who visit/ frequent our home and they could be carriers. So, I told myself in Sep/Oct that I will take precautions, follow protocol [ wear a mask, wash hands, social distancing], and resume routine life [ or something along the lines of that]
So, in Nov when I was asked if I would be interested in a travel assignment, I jumped at it. The deadline to submit the report/write-up was Dec 31st and all I had to do was give them tentative dates for travel. Considering the client’s budget etc, I decided to do a day trip. It was a fun trip, though I did have a few apprehensions about the travel rules and precautions that I needed to follow.
Here’s how it went;
1) The client booked and sent across the Flight tickets. I checked in [for both legs of the journey], reserved a seat [chose a middle seat and hoped I could swap it for window/aisle at the counter, which thankfully happened both ways of the journey]. Downloaded the boarding pass[es] on the phone.
2) Downloaded Arogya Setu app [ cos the flight website said it was mandatory]- nobody asked or checked… oh well.
3) Packed extra masks and sanitizer along with tissues & a handkerchief in my backpack.
4) Reached the airport 2hrs ahead of the departure time – Since I did not have check-in luggage, it was not an issue, but I suggest you get there earlier if you have check-in bags, or travelling with kids/family/elders/ big group of people. At the entrance, they check your temperature. Unlike earlier, you need to show your ID card till you reach the security check point [you will be asked to pull your mask down for a brief moment so the security personnel can verify your face with the ID presented].. Keep the boarding pass and ID card handy.
5) At the boarding gate, the airline personnel hand out PPE kits, including a full-body suit for those in the middle seat. The kit contains – a mask, sanitizer sachets, and a shield [Note – you need to peel off a layer on either side of this shield]. You need to wear the shield while you board, and keep it on during the flight if possible. Middle seat travellers need to stay in their full suits.
6) Most airlines serve food to those who have pre-booked, and if any extra available will come around asking others. So, in case you are planning to buy food, plan ahead. Also, some flights accept only cards, to maintain contactless transactions, while others accept cash.
7) Once the flight landed, there was a person checking our temperature near the baggage claim section. I made a quick visit to the airport restroom – washed up, wiped down my bag, camera and phone with a wet tissue. Did the same before boarding the flight that evening.
8) Upon reaching the destination, picked up a big bottle of water and carried it with me.
9) While at the destination, I kept my mask on at all times, but when I was eating/drinking. Took it off briefly inside the temple near the main sanctum for a few seconds [it was really stuffy and I was sweating like crazy]
10) I was impressed that the security personnel was ensuring people wore their masks, and not on their chins, but properly covering their nose and mouth. Only children [toddlers] were exempt. There were quite a few ladies who were using a dupatta or saree to cover their faces, but they were sent away with a warning that they would be allowed inside only if they wore a mask.
Overall, must say it was a smooth process. Apart from the few additional measures in place, there were no hiccups or undue delays. I did see the number of passengers to popular destinations was lesser than earlier, but it was good to see people out and about. That said, do not travel unless you absolutely have to and make sure to wear mask, maintain social distance and follow protocols [forget about those who don’t, just look out for yourself]
While waiting at the airport lounge, or near the gate, make sure to not sit next to a person, leave an empty seat and sit. Place your bags there if necessary to avoid someone else crowding in.
Do check the airline site or news websites to see the latest rules for travel to/from a particular destination. Tamil Nadu for instance insists on an ePass, especially for those coming in from Abroad or Maharastra, Kerala, and Karnataka. Give yourself time in case of any delays or change in plans.