The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal, to say the least. Within no time its effects grew and before you could say "lockdown", an almost worldwide travel ban had been imposed. And quite suddenly, people found themselves stranded abroad and home seemed quite far away.
We spoke to some of the people who flew to and from India during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what they had to say about their experience.
Italy was one of the first countries to be hit by the coronavirus. Student Jasmine Virk travelled from Milan to New Delhi amid the first big wave that had hit the country in March. “People tried to follow security measures but it was quite a mess," she recalls. "The officials were pretty confused too. Once we reached India, we didn’t even enter IGI airport. We were screened, again, outside the aircraft and taken straight to quarantine centres. I spent 20 days in a quarantine facility in Delhi. Once both tests came out negative, I finally came home. And promptly had to be self-isolated for 14 more days,” says Virk.
Stressing the importance of carrying all valid documents, traveller Kaav Ranj says, “It’s best to print every document you have, just so once you are at the airport you can minimise the contact other people have with your mobile phone. If you have clear leaflets to hold these papers in your carry-on baggage, even better.”
Do not panic but also don’t be lackadaisical with precautions because you never know if the people you are sitting with in waiting areas, flights or quarantine facilities are infected or not. John Simte, a law student residing in New Delhi, advises people to always sanitise everything be it a tray table, armrest, seat and even the seat belt. He says he avoided touching handles and buttons as much as possible, and remembered to sanitise even the exterior of his gloves.
It’s very important to stay hydrated in this heat, so do carry water bottles and make sure you pack easy-to-eat packaged snacks as it's unlikely any eateries at the airport will be functional. “Keep in mind you will be wearing gloves, so don’t get anything that’s too difficult to eat. Bananas are your best bet, because they’re nutritious, filling, and come with a peel that prevents direct touching,” advises Ranj.
The times are uncertain so you must be prepared to wait for hours if flights are delayed. While airport staff is grappling with a novel situation, they are trying to make sure minimal social distancing is followed and security is not compromised. Pari Tavate from Navi Mumbai talks about the situation being very stressful as everyone was mostly left to their own devices to make sure they reach the airport. Travelling from London to Mumbai, she says she faced issues about reaching on time. Moreover, there was social distancing and she faced lax behaviour from the authorities at Heathrow Airport in London, as well as at the airport in Mumbai. Tavate cautions travellers to be mentally prepared for a sense of displacement and stress. “I faced a lot of anxiety after I came back because I processed my feelings after I came home,” she says.
Once you arrive in India, you will be screened again and whisked off to a treatment centre if you are contagious, or to a selected list of hotels according to your budget, to isolate for 14 days. The payment for the hotel facilities and the COVID-19 test needs to be done beforehand. Once you are in a hotel, you’ll then be subjected to daily temperature tests and all your meals will be left outside your room to avoid contact with staff. Just follow all the rules, take all the precautions and rest assured, the 14-day ordeal will be over in no time and you can go back to your family.