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Emerging air travel rules

One thing that bothers me most about overseas travel is that I know my family and I will have to take off our masks in a public space.

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A week ago, my Taguig-based friend’s daughter received her first dose of a Covid vaccine. I was happy for them. If a Metro Manila city has begun inoculations, then, fingers crossed, it won’t be long before 12- to 17-year-olds here in Mindanao get vaccinated, too. Last month, we already preregistered my child via the online system, and we received a message acknowledging that her information has been submitted for validation. We are praying that the much-awaited appointment happens soon. What a wonderful Christmas gift that would be for my family and I — our whole household fully vaccinated!

Elsewhere around the world, travel restrictions are slowly easing. Double-vaxxed travelers are now welcome in an increasing number of countries, but not without specific requirements depending on your point of origin or departure city. Canada, France, Germany, Belgium and Spain are some of those accepting international tourists who are from “low-risk” countries and fully inoculated with a WHO (World Health Organization) recognized and approved Covid-19 vaccine.

Planning an overseas trip at this time is far from straightforward though. Being based in Mindanao, we’d have to first clarify the travel requirements from our city to our next stop or connecting flight within the country. That’s on top of the outbound journey itself, as well as, later on, requirements and rules for the inbound leg of our trip.

One country’s current operating procedure for travelers may be different from another country’s, and restrictions and entry rules can change at a moment’s notice, as we’ve seen with the surge in cases in particular regions due to the Delta variant. Then there are the mandatory quarantine times at hotels once overseas if, unfortunately, found to be positive for Covid in the arrival RT-PCR test and, yet again, right after the trip home.

Having been within the confines of my abode for the most part of the past one year and seven months, it’s certainly exciting to plan a trip overseas to visit my son and other loved ones. But all the requirements and additional costs due to the possible five- to 14-day hotel quarantine requirement in some countries make medium- to long-haul travel tricky, impractical, risky and, personally, not worth all the trouble at this time. On the upside, many in the tourism sector around the world are seeing a revival in their operations, with some hoping that international travel will be more robust by March 2022.

I hope an increasing number of countries would have reached their vaccination targets by the end of the year, putting nations in a better position to open up their borders to fully vaccinated tourists.

Interestingly, the one thing that bothers me most about overseas travel is that I know my family and I will have to take off our masks in a public space and have a meal at some stage of the trip. It took a while to get used to it, but I now never take off my mask on the rare times I step out of my home for essentials or for work. I have learnt not to dine out, something we used to thoroughly enjoy as a family, and have avoided it for the past 19 months. I don’t think I will unlearn that too quickly.

At the start of 2021, I had thought that by this month I would have traveled by air at least once to reunite with loved ones. At this point, I’m not even fully comfortable to go to the small ticketing office of my pre-pandemic favorite airline. No, not until my whole household has been double vaxxed. I’ve waited this long; I am certain I can wait a bit more.

What international air travel will look like in the medium term is slowly taking shape. There are contact tracing apps that need to be downloaded, forms or declarations that have to be completed and LGU and country specific entry and exit requirements that must be clarified. I await the emerging travel rules as patiently as I await my child’s first dose appointment.

I suppose this is what it’s like to learn to live with the virus. Slowly adjusting to venturing out of our homes and comfort zones, albeit with precautions, so that we’re not only surviving this long ordeal but thriving, flourishing, reuniting and, once in a blue moon, exploring as well.

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