COVID-19 restrictions could be a guessing recreation for airline crews

COVID-19 restrictions can be a guessing game for airline crews

2021-01-22 00:55:31

I’m a flight attendant for a legacy U.S. airline and am writing from a lodge room in Panama Metropolis, Panama. As we speak is Jan. 11. The state of affairs right here will not be good. As of yesterday, the Panamanian Ministry of Well being has recorded 279,196 whole instances of COVID-19.

The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention categorizes locations based on threat:

• Stage 1: Low stage of COVID-19

• Stage 2: Average stage of COVID-19

• Stage 3: Excessive stage of COVID-19

• Stage 4: Very excessive stage of COVID-19

Panama is at present at stage 4. On its web site, the CDC’s warning is obvious: “Vacationers ought to keep away from all journey to Panama.”

But right here I’m, together with two pilots and three flight attendants who labored a flight from Miami the earlier night time. The Airbus 321S we flew in on is configured with 179 seats; 108 have been unoccupied.

After I arrived at Tocumen Worldwide Airport, a weary immigration official stamped my passport. With a languid hand gesture, he directed me to the exit. However after I regarded over my shoulder, I spotted my crew was not behind me within the queue. They have been being detained in a far nook of the immigration space by medical personnel sporting white lab coats.

Once I realized my colleagues have been being processed at a COVID-19 checkpoint, which I had in some way been allowed to bypass, I did one thing I’ve by no means finished in 35 years as a world flight attendant. I rotated and walked again via the immigration checkpoint, exiting the nation I had legally entered.

My temperature was taken by medical personnel. I signed a doc stating I had no COVID-19 signs. I supplied my lodge and cellphone numbers for contact tracing. Then, for the second time in 20 minutes, I approached the immigration checkpoint.

The official nodded and waved me via.

On the Sheraton Grand Panama, the doorway, foyer and adjoining areas have been abandoned. A lone front-desk clerk pushed our room keys via a slot in a tall plexiglass barrier. As a consequence of a government-imposed lockdown, she mentioned, “All eating places within the metropolis closed at 9 p.m.” This contains lodge eating places. As a result of we arrived after 9 p.m. there was no meals obtainable. Anyplace. And no room service till 7 a.m. the subsequent day. It’s my fault for not remembering to convey meals from house.

So this morning, after a long-awaited breakfast, I referred to as the entrance desk to ask whether or not friends have been allowed to enterprise outdoors the lodge. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, I used to be informed, “Solely ladies are allowed to go outdoors at the moment. Males can exit tomorrow and the ladies should keep house.”

Baffled, I ended the decision and logged on to the U.S. Embassy in Panama web site. Positive sufficient, in an effort to battle the unfold of the coronavirus the Panamanian authorities has issued gender “motion” restrictions.

Ladies are allowed to enter buying areas on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Males can do the identical on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The nation is on full lockdown from 9 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday.

As a result of at the moment is Monday, the one girl on my crew is allowed to buy. The 5 males — our captain, first officer, myself and the opposite flight attendants — are free to depart the lodge however are banned from retail institutions. (Because it seems, the data gleaned from the lodge entrance desk had not been utterly correct.)

The restrictions in Panama are as fluid as in different international locations. In Brazil, for instance, crew members have been informed to stay on lodge property. We have been allowed to depart our rooms however not the lodge grounds.

On Dec. 30 the restrictions intensified due to an uptick in COVID instances. The next message was despatched by our labor union to some 20,000 flight attendants:

“Efficient instantly, all crews flying to [Rio de Janeiro] and [Saõ Paulo] will probably be required by the Brazilian Authorities to fill out a Vacationers Well being Declaration Survey which have to be accomplished 72 hours previous to entry … Moreover, crew members is not going to be permitted to depart the lodge apart from to and from the airport in firm supplied transportation.”

However that message was instantly amended. Throughout separate calls to the union and my flight attendant supervisor, I discovered that crews laying over in Brazil can’t, underneath any circumstances, depart the confines of the lodge room. However, my colleagues there inform me the restriction will not be being enforced.

COVID restrictions are frequently evolving at house and overseas. And there are many holes within the system. As a result of flight attendants like me are potential COVID-19 tremendous spreaders — able to infecting passengers and crew on a number of flights to a whole bunch of locations in a brief time period — it’s as much as us to strictly comply with safety protocols. Wash palms usually. Put on masks always. And stay alone in your lodge room for so long as native laws require.

Which is exactly what I’ve finished for the final 30 hours in Panama Metropolis.

Tomorrow, I fly one leg to Miami. Three hours later, I’ll work a flight to Lima, Peru. In accordance with the U.S. Embassy web site, “All vacationers arriving to Peru should quarantine for 14 days on arrival.”

I’m nearly sure this ruling doesn’t apply to U.S.-based airline crews. However like all COVID-19 restrictions, it may change. I would spend the subsequent two weeks holed up in a Lima lodge, writing in regards to the results of long-term quarantine.

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