The Repatriation Ordeal In Corona Times
While we all are in forced lockdown without being able to travel and this can be frustrating, however believe me when I say traveling at these times is even more frustrating.
While I was happy to secure a flight home through "Vande Bharat Mission" repatriation flight after loosing my job in Dubai I was not really ready for the ordeal that was to come. The AirIndia Express flight to Chennai was at 1150hrs on 1st July. I have been one of the lucky few to get a ticket home in the 4th phase of Vande Bharat mission from Dubai to Chennai.
In normal times a 2hrs or 3hrs pre arrival at airport would have been sufficient. However these are different times and we came 5hrs before expecting too many formalities. The arrangement at Dubai terminal 2 was adequate. Social distancing well maintained with chairs spaced for seating, An initial rapid test conducted and a sticker on passport mentioning “FIT TO FLY”
After this we were directed to checkin counter for boarding pass which again went smoothly. Since my work got terminated my visa was cancelled and it had incurred some overstay fines. The immigration officer directed me to pay the fines.
This is where it all started , the ones who were in these lines impatient as their flight was about to close gates and frustrated as they never expected a fine in such troubled times as there were limited or no flights earlier to take them back home. The staff here were a bit angry over those poor souls who had already put in the last of their savings in tickets and hoping to go back home to survive this pandemic. The queue in the payment counter was so long with no one following distancing and extremely stressful. The personnel there in fine collection were taking ever to process each payment and people were getting impatient as their flight time was coming close.. finally managed to do the payment for me and my wife and managed to get through security to my gate.
Since we were already late the boarding started as soon as we came to the gate with the airline systematically allowing windows first, middle then finally aisle seats.
The people who got middle seats were given additional PPE to wear.
It was advised not to remove the face mask, shield and gloves unless it was necessary. It was not comfortable to be wearing these and traveling but I guess we have no options considering the self and others safety.
I think the full face mask is a good thing to wear as it can prevent anything entering eyes, nose and mouth.
The flight journey was okay and arrived at Chennai airport. Funny that all those nice passengers who willingly were adhering to all the rules in Dubai suddenly turning rebels.
Even when I gently requested a senior person in front of me to maintain distancing and not come close to me to interact with another friend of his in the nearby line got agitated and was shouting back at us. Guess the stress had taken toll on everyone. I patiently listened and preferred not to respond back.
Immigration was smooth in Chennai. There were forms being distributed to fill our option wither to go to government free quarantine or paid hotel quarantine. We chose paid quarantine as filled the forms accordingly. Collected the baggage and reached the booth where we will be given details of the hotel quarantine. We were asked to fill a declaration that we will be paying our quarantine duration of 7days. The next stop was the COVID test. A nasal and throat swab was taken after which we proceeded to the bus waiting to take us to the hotel quarantine. Upon reaching hotel a few more forms filled payment done and finally reached the room which was okayish. Food was being served to your room in non contact way where the food is being kept at the door and you hav ego collect it on Yusuf own.
Day 0 : had reached hotel around 8pm got into room and were served dinner. Begin tired with the 14 hrs of stressful and frustrating travel have hit the bed..
Day 1 : Had a sound sleep and were woken up by the knock at the door. The breakfast was being served at 8.30AM. Nothing special but Idli with sambar and chutney. Shortly after the breakfast tea comes at 10.30. Took a shower and lunch arrived at 1.30 noon. Took time to call all our relatives and friends and let them know we are safe and sound. Day passes swiftly. Evening tea along with some snacks. The dinner was served at 8.30 PM.
Day 2 : Same routine as previous day
Day 3 : Same routine as previous day, Food is in so excess that we have started to put some out in the window for birds to eat instead of having it thrown in garbage. Some crows have started to be interested in the leftover but they are still very cautious when picking the food.
Day 4 : It has been a routine morning and have slowly got used to it. Around after we got a call from the reception asking us to come down with any ID cards and get our Swab test done. The hospital staff after asking some routine questions led us to get our nasal and throat swabs. Back to room.
Day 5 : The routine somehow feels annoying as after all these food we have nowhere to walk and have to be in our room. The crows have now become used to us and do not mind us sitting right next to the window when they take away the food.
Day 6 : Routine continues
Day 7 : Are hoping that our results will be shared by evening today and will come to know when we can checkout and reach our home. But nothing yet till 6PM.. So it looks like another day of solitude.
Day 8 :
(To be continued)