1. Have an Interesting Snippet to Share : Click Here
    Dismiss Notice

Covid Protocol

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by Viswamitra, Apr 10, 2022.

  1. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra Finest Post Winner

    Messages:
    12,684
    Likes Received:
    22,766
    Trophy Points:
    538
    Gender:
    Male
    Before I left for India, I got a notification that India has dropped the need for a COVID test to be conducted within 72 hours before the departure. I was pleased as my journey will be that much easier. However, I was told that I still need to fill in details of our vaccinations in air suvidha portal along with our passport and OCI information. I completed all of that well ahead of my trip and took a copy of what I needed to fill in. When I checked in at the airport to depart to India, the checking in counter personnel told me to produce original vaccination cards. Even though as an extra careful person, I carried it with me, I was shocked by this demand as it was never mentioned anywhere including by the airline as a travel need. Luckily, I carried it and met that requirement. When I landed in India, the immigration and customs were uneventful and no one even looked at my air suvidha documents nor there was a process to select 2% of the total passengers for surprise COVID test.

    When I was preparing for the return trip to the US, I was looking at the requirements for return journey and it was clear to me that I need a test results for all three of us within a day prior to our departure. I started doing my study of the requirements. The lab should be ICMR approved and the report should be dated one day prior to the departure and not necessarily 24 hours prior to the departure. I called my airline to understand the needs and they told me that the COVID test and the vaccination cards should be good enough to travel. I used Google to searh ICMR approved lab and I found a number of labs in Chennai. In some cases, the business names and the approved names in the ICMR list are different. I reconciled them to find out who is who. I also took the help of people who traveled to the US before and they told me where they took the test. Finally, I narrowed in on three labs and decided to go with one as the person agreed to do the test at home in the earnly morning hours and send the report no later than 4:30 p.m. the same day. However, despite several follow up calls he did not show up on time. Finally, he showed up at around 10 a.m. with me asking over and over again whether the report will be ready by 4:30 p.m. and he confirmed it would be.

    I got a notification via Whatsapp at 1 p.m. that the test materials were received by the lab. I noticed a message in broken english from a guy who did the test that said "Only mother's is okay". My heart went up as I thought my wife and I have a positive report as we are the only two who moved around a lot. Finally, I get him on the phone and he told me that only her passport copy I sent via Whatsapp came clearly and I need to resend my wife's and mine once again. I was thanking my stars and resent those copies as I wanted to make sure the reports have the right name and right spelling. As promised, the report was received in WhatsApp much before 4:30 p.m. and when I opened the pdf one after another looking for conclusions, each one of the reports said "negative" even though the report ran into two pages including comments such as a negative report doesn't necessarily mean the patient doesn't have COVID. Finally, all the reports are in. As a caution, I requested the original of the report which I had someone collect it from the lab on my behalf.

    We reach Chennai airport huffing and puffing only to be told that the local Vistara airline counter will open only 2 hours before the departure time as the staff had gone for lunch. This is to request a wheel chair for my mother-in-law. My wife who is supposed to be also in the wheel chair due to her knee surgery finally ran around to find someone from Air India who would help send a wheel chair for my mother-in-law while my wife decides to walk with all her bags. When we reached the entrance door, the security told me that United Airline has given only their UA Flight # and it should have a local Vistara number for which we need to wait until Vistara counter opens. Finally, a guy opens the counter. He asked me to wait for 5 minutes while he can wear a tie and coat and then until the computer responds. Finally, he gives a print out that all three of us supposed to travel to Delhi from Chennai. The security allows us to enter the airport.

    Finally, we get to the Vistara counter where we found a pleasing staff who not only checked in all of our baggages to the final destination but also printed out boarding passes for all the segments. He mentioned to me that I should hold on to the receipt for baggages but told that United in Delhi will reissue the boarding passes. He also explained that the first port of entry in the US is where I need to go through the immigration and customs (which I knew but I liked his systematic approach) and gave the pass for us to go and rest in their waiting room. He also explained only United in Delhi will check the requirements with reference to COVID protocol. Waiting room was full and we could barely find a seat to be seated but they offered excellent food before our departure.

    Finally, the staff who took us to the waiting room arrived to take us to the gate and we safely boarded the plane. The plane landed in Delhi and Vistara staff was efficient in moving us to the United terminal. When the flight landed at 8 p.m., United categorically told us that their counter will open only at 10 a.m. and asked us to wait where barely there were seats. Finally, the counter opened after 2 hours and we began checking in. A guy came to check COVID protocol while I was standing on the line. I asked him what are the documents needed to comply with COVID protocol. He said he needs just a negative report either online or a print out. He said the vaccination cards are not needed for those returning to the US unless they are residents of India. I show my Whatsapp message and he barely looked at the report that said negative and cleared us quickly. After that we moved to the security where they literally stripped my belt and shoes. Besides they asked me to take out all the cell phones in my bag, every key inside my bag, my wallet, etc. before clearing my security. They also did a thorough search of my MIL. Finally, we boarded the plane preparing for the grueling 17 hours non-stop journey.

    We had 61 wheel-chair passengers in our plane and the way it was handled in the port of entry was outstanding. We reached immigration and customs quickly, cleared our bags and went through the customs so quickly. The security was easier and finally we reached our gate and boarded the plane. When it was about to take-off, the pilot announced that we got a bad news that there was a storm crossing Florida and our flight can't leave for another 3 hours. They asked us all to get off the plane. I don't have to explain how hard it is to move my wheel-chaired MIL. Finally, the flight left 3 hours later and we got back home on Thursday.

    Will I travel international again? I sure will to experience all of that once again. Each experience is unique and different.
     
    Amica, umaakumar, Laks09 and 3 others like this.
    Loading...

  2. Gauri03

    Gauri03 Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

    Messages:
    6,211
    Likes Received:
    13,027
    Trophy Points:
    445
    Gender:
    Female
    Enjoyed reading Viswa's nostos! The Covid testing rigmarole gave me anxiety. :disrelieved: The feeling one gets upon landing in the US after traveling to India is probably how Odysseus felt when he finally reached the shores of Ithaca. : )

    I had started to wonder about you. Glad to have you back!
     
    Viswamitra likes this.
  3. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra Finest Post Winner

    Messages:
    12,684
    Likes Received:
    22,766
    Trophy Points:
    538
    Gender:
    Male
    @Gauri03,

    So happy to be back! As yu said rightly it is a rigmarole that one follows without understanding the purpose whether it is the traveller or the enforcer. In Delhi, the security protocol continues to follow many TSA guidelines given at the time of 9/11 whereas many of such processes were already dropped in the US. When I asked them they told me, "I am traveling to the US and I need to go through these processes".

    With reference to COVID test, the airline staff at the time of checkin barely looked at the negative report and after that no one cared to check whether I took the COVID test or not. Why not drop that requirement, if it is not that important? Even for travel to India, I don't understand the need to show the original COVID Vaccination card at the checkin counter when every traveler filled in details in Air Suvidha portal. If Airline is responsible for this process, they can have a copy of it along with self-declaration form filed by each traveler.
     
    Gauri03 likes this.
  4. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

    Messages:
    12,074
    Likes Received:
    29,280
    Trophy Points:
    540
    Gender:
    Female
    Welcome back, Viswa! Tons of patience and an unflagging faith in all-will-be-well is what can take one through these times and journeys. I truly feel anyone who completes an international travel deserves a garland on landing. And if it involves 17 hours ... the entire garland store.

    Been hearing similar experiences from my friends who go to visit India or to bring over parents who have GC. Some have made multiple visits already, like for nephew's wedding!

    Glad that your much delayed trip happened and you are now back too.

    I am totally chicken. Forget about Covid testing, just the thought of sitting in economy for hours makes me shudder. And paying more than economy is not yet a luxury I indulge in. No miles accrued for free upgrade either.
     
    Amica and Viswamitra like this.
  5. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra Finest Post Winner

    Messages:
    12,684
    Likes Received:
    22,766
    Trophy Points:
    538
    Gender:
    Male
    @Rihana

    So happy to be back! I told myself that I need a lot of patience while traveling especially when I have passenger who needs wheel chair throughout the journey. Frankly, despite all the sufferings we undergo during journey, I have to credit both airlines as well as ground staff in the airport for handling COVID protocol, an extra responsibility with care and diligence and without much of inconvenience to the passangers. Yes. The trip that I had been postponing finally happened and I am back after the trip as well.

    For the past 10 years, I am traveling by Business Class not due to the luxury I could afford but due to the need of my MIL to travel more conveniently. She refused to travel business class if I don't book for all of us to travel by business class. In a way, this luxury is thrusted into me. I am not sure whether I would go back to traveling by economy in future.
     
    Amica and Rihana like this.
  6. Balajee

    Balajee IL Hall of Fame

    Messages:
    5,441
    Likes Received:
    4,379
    Trophy Points:
    338
    Gender:
    Male
    As shakespeare said "Security is mortal's chiefest enemy", They made you take off the shoes? Did you have anything metallic in it to send the metal detector go crazy? Belts of course have plastic buckles. You are supposed to putm everything that you have in your pocket on the conveyor belt including your wallet. in ndia they are terrorized by the idea of a terrorist's or suicide bomber. What if the metal tip of your shoelace is a potential hijacker's weapon? Yoiu could have a bob in your belt or wallet or mobile phone. The3 briught side is they don't strip search all the passengers. Corona protocol has made the checks even more burdensome. You are lucky that you are a US resident. With desis, the airport staff get paranoid.
     
    Viswamitra likes this.
  7. HariLakhera

    HariLakhera Platinum IL'ite

    Messages:
    2,030
    Likes Received:
    2,270
    Trophy Points:
    283
    Gender:
    Male
    It is quite testing and bravo to your endurance capacity. I thought things should be easy now, but it looks scary.
     
    Viswamitra likes this.
  8. Amica

    Amica IL Hall of Fame

    Messages:
    3,037
    Likes Received:
    8,378
    Trophy Points:
    460
    Gender:
    Female
    Viswa, so glad that all of you have returned home safely. The Covid protocols are an interesting read.

    It's good to see your posts in IL again. :)
    .
     
    Viswamitra likes this.
  9. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra Finest Post Winner

    Messages:
    12,684
    Likes Received:
    22,766
    Trophy Points:
    538
    Gender:
    Male
    @Balajee,

    They made me take the shoes not because they found a metallic substance in my shoes but as a preventive security measure. My point was, the US TSA already abandoned this security process and obviously, Indian airports are still continuing this process. Generally, I am supportive of the security measures but when it results in almost reassembling all my belongings again, it is too difficult. The best part is the security said, "I noticed three key chains inside your bag and take all of them out". I wonder if the X-Ray machine already showed they are key chains, I wonder why it should be taken out. I didn't see any discrimination showed by the security personnel between the US residents and other Indian passengers traveling to the US. I have traveled from Europe to the US and in general, the security before you board any plane from anywhere if I fly to the US is always thorough.

    My feeling is the US should take a leaf from the Israeli government and interview the passengers to determine who needs to be checked. They have the knack of differentiating the terrorists easily as they are more vulnerable.
     
    HariLakhera likes this.
  10. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra Finest Post Winner

    Messages:
    12,684
    Likes Received:
    22,766
    Trophy Points:
    538
    Gender:
    Male
    Dear Hari Sir,

    Travel to India was relatively smoother as they have abandoned the need for the COVID test before journeying to India on February 14th. However, the travel back to the US is hard as they have not yet canceled COVID test one day before the departure. Frankly, the airlines are doing it in a relaxed way as they understand that these reports surve no purpose.
     
    HariLakhera likes this.

Share This Page