Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Chaos as Corona, COVID-19 hits airports

There is an eerie feeling, walking through a deserted airport, with fear that I would not be able to board the 4 flights to get home.  It was like a pack of cards behind me as the flights from Europe then the U.K. and Ireland were cancelled and collapsed as I rushed anxiously. I was in Holland when I heard that flights had been halted between Europe but not yet the UK, so I thought my flight to London and on to Belfast would be okay. Then came the news that the White House said the travel ban would extend to United Kingdom and Ireland. Then they said that the USA would be closed!

I was staying at the Holiday Inn in Leiden, last week, becoming increasingly anxious about the unprecedented hysteria that we are experiencing in this global, crisis caused by the Chinese Coronavirus Pandemic COVID-19. This was not alleviated when I saw that my hotel in Holland had signs in English and Chinese. I assume that this is because many Chinese people like to visit the Medical Museum near the hotel. The Anatomical Museum of medical and biomedical LUMC is near the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Luckily, I did not see more than 3 other guests staying there. But the 3 of them, all sat at breakfast tables next to mine when we could have been spaced 10 yards apart. The front desk was taped off like a crime scene, to prevent guests from getting too close to the receptionist. I was instructed to use the hand sanitizer before handing her my credit card. Wish I’d had tape to tape of my breakfast table ….

The next night I moved to the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Amsterdam airport, where I wondered if I would have to rent a bicycle to cycle to the Eurostar to London. The news that all flights to the USA from Europe had been cancelled, made me anxious, feeling envious of my friends experiencing cabin fever, while I was franticly trying to get home. I was worried that I would not be able to get on my flight to Heathrow Airport and then on to Belfast.

At the airport, people were unusually subdued, somber as someone mentioned that this is the Apocalypse. I do feel like I am living through a war as President Trump says the U.S. and Mexico will close border to non-essential travel amid the coronavirus. Trump also invoked the Defense Production Act to get critical medical supplies. We are in a much better position than Europe and other countries because we have 32 ventilators per 1,000 US citizens and the UK only has one, according to Senator John Barrasso .  I’m optimistic that the world has survived the Spanish Flu, West Nile Virus, Zika. Ebola. (Note; All named for places). 

The hotel to Amsterdam Airport bus blocked the first 2 rows of seats &; as well as the Translink bus I took to Dublin, does not allow people to sit near the driver as  Coronavirus cases top 15,000 in US. and we learn a new term “Social-Distancing".

Unfortunately, Airport managers are slow to learn about “Social distancing”. Schiphol Airport always has lines for immigration, even though many of the checks are done by machines. This time it was a Mega mess! Even though there were only a few passengers, they huddled us all together, confined in snake lines at immigration control. It was a confined, claustrophobic space, with a low ceiling. Appalling to do this at a time when social distancing is required.
The same happened at Dublin Airport! United told us to get to the airport at 6 am then we had to line up, all packed together in a small space for an hour, waiting for US customs to open, then they did not even let us clear customs in Dublin. We had to clear customs in EWR. The USA customs officials simply asked us a couple of questions and those that did not fit the criteria, were taken to a back room.

United are to end all long-haul flying amid this pandemic. The Star Alliance carrier will suspend 95% of its international flying, including all of its flights to Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and South America by March 28, CEO Munoz that “even more cost-cutting measures will be required soon to keep our company afloat.” Sounds ominous. I hope that does not mean that they will not refund my ticket booked in May.

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