Ever since the advent of the novel Corona Virus, a lot of us have pushed travel plans to the back of beyond.
In fact, a few months ago, I never imagined that I would actually be boarding a flight, scurrying away from people, wearing a mask, a face shield with the optional PPE suit, to go someplace, out of town.
Travel has suddenly become something to be done only in the most exigent circumstances.
But then we don’t always do what we choose; times are when the need is greater than the choice. So, after much ado, I did finally pack a bag, to fly to my hometown in Assam.
And for the most of you, I would say if you’re travelling to Assam? Make sure you have a very good reason.
Though Covid cases show no sign of decreasing due to stringent measures taken by the government, it is among the few states to rush passengers directly from the airport for Covid swab tests.
Good or bad? You’ll know when you experience it. Other than being a major irritant due to the long queues, post landing at the capital Guwahati’s Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport and running from one counter to the other, with a chit of paper with one’s travel details, before you are hustled unceremoniously into a bus, with hordes of people, for the Sarusajai Stadium where the Covid samples will be taken, it absolutely goes against all the diktats of social distancing, to prevent the Corona Virus.
I literally had to holler to get a few people to stop breathing down my neck, as I sat in the bus to Sarusajai and once you try to alight, there are more such people pushing, jostling, shoving to get ahead in line to get their samples taken. Social distancing be damned. Once out of the airport, most abandoned their masks.
The only saving grace would be that the city’s premier stadium is spacious so people are forced to maintain some degree of space, while standing in line for their swabs. The downside of this is that, the beautiful Sarusajai stadium, which was constructed using a lot of tax payers money, has been totally damaged, to turn it into a quarantine center for Covid patients and to test those flying into the state from elsewhere.
Getting people to a quarantine center for tests is not a very smart thing to do; it could increase the risk of infections quite a bit. Yet another one of the things I felt was that the state of the washrooms were pathetic, from a hygiene point of view. There were no sanitisers, no attendants and absolutely low on security, being located in a dark, dingy area that can put a lone woman to risk, should she go there to use it.
Here too, at the venue for Covid tests, you are pushed around from counter to counter of officials and doctors behind their glass windows, to show your identity cards and information, where many people write down the same details about you, over and over again. A useless, time consuming exercise where 30 people would be employed in place of the 5, that were actually needed.
Not to forget that those who want the results of one test immediately, around half an hour, are to pay for it. So that’s 2200 from one passenger, amounting to a lot of cash flow, from the many flights operating daily to Guwahati from all parts of the country. If you don’t pay, you wait longer for the results to come and I suspect, most people would like to go home after a stressful journey, so they all end up paying.
That said, the government must have some great ideas to control the disease, as they make it mandatory to give Covid samples, for travellers to Assam. The rising figures of course, tell another story.
A week later, as I return, I am much relieved that I don’t have to undergo this at the Delhi airport. It’s all fast, easy and painless.
It’s still a matter of concern though that airlines that are currently operating, are being swamped with passengers, who, instead of maintaining distance from each other, are all in a mad rush to break queues, removing masks wherever they please, harassing airline crew by asking them a million questions with very less physical distance. This, despite web checkins. It almost seems that most passengers flying now imagine that if they get out of the aircraft and pick their baggage from the conveyor belt fast enough, perhaps Covid will not strike them.
And so the pushing and shoving and a million selfies in Covid gear continues. Smiles are intact while posing. Disease scare or no.
Welcome to the new world of travel in Covid era 2020.