Travel during the times of a global pandemic

It had been two months of a not so successful period of lockdown. Most of us – Bangalore’s working population, moved back to their respective hometowns, with a cup of hope, a sliver of fear and anxiety, a teaspoon of anticipation and, a drop of relief. For now, we hog on Ma’s scrumptious food and hang on to every word of every newspaper article.

I relentlessly read and read and read about the state’s decision to open and finally, that fateful day arrived. Karnataka opened the railways and the flights from the 1st of June. If it hadn’t though, I had planned to smuggle myself across the border, and let’s face it, that would’ve made a better story.

The process itself was quite simple but the world we lived in was just not normal anymore and that was reason enough to panic. I booked my flight tickets and applied for an E-Pass. An E-Pass gets you across the state borders. But one’s reason for travel must be justified. After having acquired the acknowledgment of the application I was all set.

The day of my flight arrived. The environment was very strange. As though strangers aren’t scary enough, now we had masked strangers everywhere. Before you walk in, you had to present your ID proof, the acknowledgment of the E-Pass, your flight ticket, and the Arogya Sethu App. Now, it wasn’t enough if you just had the App on your phone. You are required to be marked “safe” by the App. After you walk in, you go to the Check-In counter where you are asked to produce your E-Pass again, and check-in your luggage. Most airlines ask you to print your boarding pass to minimise contact.

After Check-In, you head to security. Now it gets interesting. Before you walk into the security check, you’re expected to look into a camera and hold your boarding pass up, next to your face. This is scanned and verified. So you don’t have to get your boarding pass stamped, it is done virtually. You then walk in, leave your hand luggage to be scanned by the X-Ray security scanner and get checked by an official. Again they don’t frisk you, they just use the hand metal detector.

While boarding, you have to hold up your boarding pass upon a fiberglass divider. This is again to minimise contact. After this, you’ll be given a safety package containing sanitizer, face mask and, a face shield.

Fast forward to reaching Bangalore, as soon as the flight landed, we get a PDF of the E-Pass (Note: After application, you only get the acknowledgment, not the Pass itself). So you are required to show the E-Pass to the officials who will then check your vitals. If all is well, you will be lead to another table where depending on which state you’re arriving from your quarantine period will be decided. You will then be stamped and free to go.

Travelling usually gets me jittery, and during a global pandemic, it only gets worse. I know I read up as much as possible about the procedures before I traveled and I only hope this is helpful to all of you. Safe travels!

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