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To Fly Or Not To Fly?

That is the question…

Along with social distancing and furlough, ‘air bridge’ is another word to add to the (rather unwelcome) 2020 lexicon. What is an air bridge you may ask? This is a way to travel and side step any quarantine requirements. According to the Telegraph, the UK will soon create air bridges with ‘low risk’ countries including France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany.

But what does this really mean for keeping the traveller safe? And for preventing the further spread of Coronavirus? It’s all very well keeping travellers at a distance in the airport but this becomes redundant if airlines don’t implement social distancing on board. EasyJet has plans to restart numerous routes from July 1. They will operate 500 flights a day across Europe, including over 900 flights a week to and from the UK. On skimming their new biosafety page, the only real change seems to be mandatory wearing of face masks on all flights. There will also be no food service on board, except for water. Another nod to any difference is that ‘at some airports’ (which ones?) there may be a quick temperature check and if you don’t pass this you have to go home.

This is a far cry from the travel decree of my resident country, Singapore. Singapore has taken a strict approach to keeping Coronavirus under control and the borders are practically sealed. The only concession is The Fast Lane arrangement between Singapore and six Chinese provinces. Here is the process as outlined by the Straits Times:

A Singapore traveller heading to China will have to take a swab test for the virus before departure. Once in China, another swab test will be taken, as well as one for antibodies, and the traveller must follow a pre-approved itinerary. After returning to Singapore, he will have to serve a 14-day stay-home notice and undergo another swab test. The traveller will have to pay for these tests, which can cost up to $200 each.

It really makes you rethink those travel plans…

Thanks to my favourite Insta account, Passenger Shaming, I have long been wiping down airline seats and tray tables. Perhaps the one positive change following Covid is that airlines should be deep cleaning and disinfecting daily. Plus all of us should now have elevated levels of hygiene, here’s hoping we are all washing our hands regularly.

I do remain hugely conflicted about whether we should be flying internationally. The travel industry has been decimated and airlines have shed so many jobs. It’s hard to sit by and watch and industry that has fed my greatest passion go under. On a personal note I would LOVE to be jetting off somewhere soon. I am based in Singapore and my family live in the UK. This is the first year that we will not be returning home to visit them this summer. That’s heartwrenching for my parents not to see their grandkids. Plus I have no idea when it would also be safe for them to get on a longhaul flight and come out to Singapore.

Despite news reports of holidaymakers jetting overseas, we must remember the fight against Coronavirus is by no means over. According to the New York Times, ‘The C.D.C. said U.S. cases are probably 10 times higher than the official count, and the White House coronavirus task force will reconvene on Friday for its first briefing in nearly two months.’ It seems there is a huge disconnect between how we are handling this globally.

I can’t help thinking that we still don’t know enough about Covid to be opening the world up so fast. Air bridges negate the need for quarantine but at what risk? If I was travelling back to the UK next week, there’s no way I would endanger visiting my parents without first self-quaranting for two weeks.

It seems to me nobody has the right answer. Travel and Leisure have an insightful article on whether it’s safe to fly now. Although don’t expect a clear answer. ‘According to the medical, mathematical, aviation, and travel experts we spoke with, the answer is complicated and comes with numerous caveats’.

To sum it up, nobody knows. Coronavirus is still spreading rapidly. But at what price? On the one hand, a disease that has cost lives. On the other, a disease that has ravaged the economy. It has taken jobs and livelihoods. I can’t really see a way out of this for now (and boy do look back at my old travel busy life wistfully). What an utter sh**show this all is.

I’ll leave you with the wise words of freelance travel writer Karen Tee, who sums it up more eloquently than I ever could,

Like many who live in Singapore, I am accustomed to our country’s seamless connectivity to the region and beyond. It was barely a few months ago when international travel was a breeze. …
To play my part in curbing the spread of the virus, I’ve willingly curtailed my nomadic instincts over the past months and will do so for as long as it takes.

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