COVID-19 constraints can be perplexing for airline crews

I’m a flight attendant for a legacy U.S. airline and am crafting from a hotel home in Panama City, Panama. These days is Jan. 11. The situation in this article is not great. As of yesterday, the Panamanian Ministry of Health and fitness has recorded 279,196 total circumstances of COVID-19.

The Centers for Sickness Manage and Avoidance categorizes places according to danger:

• Stage 1: Very low amount of COVID-19

• Degree 2: Reasonable degree of COVID-19

• Amount 3: Large stage of COVID-19

• Degree 4: Quite substantial level of COVID-19

Panama is at the moment at level 4. On its site, the CDC’s warning is clear: “Travelers really should steer clear of all journey to Panama.”

But below I am, together with two pilots and 3 flight attendants who labored a flight from Miami the previous night. The Airbus 321S we flew in on is configured with 179 seats 108 have been unoccupied.

Immediately after I arrived at Tocumen Worldwide Airport, a weary immigration formal stamped my passport. With a languid hand gesture, he directed me to the exit. But when I looked above my shoulder, I recognized my crew was not powering me in the queue. They were being staying detained in a considerably corner of the immigration place by professional medical personnel putting on white lab coats.

When I understood my colleagues ended up getting processed at a COVID-19 checkpoint, which I had somehow been permitted to bypass, I did anything I’ve by no means performed in 35 several years as an intercontinental flight attendant. I turned around and walked back by the immigration checkpoint, exiting the state I experienced lawfully entered.

My temperature was taken by healthcare personnel. I signed a document stating I had no COVID-19 signs. I supplied my lodge and cellphone quantities for get hold of tracing. Then, for the next time in 20 minutes, I approached the immigration checkpoint.

The formal nodded and waved me via.

At the Sheraton Grand Panama, the entrance, foyer and adjoining parts were being deserted. A lone entrance-desk clerk pushed our home keys by means of a slot in a tall plexiglass barrier. Due to a governing administration-imposed lockdown, she explained, “All restaurants in the metropolis shut at 9 p.m.” This contains hotel dining establishments. For the reason that we arrived immediately after 9 p.m. there was no food stuff out there. Anyplace. And no area services till 7 a.m. the upcoming day. It is my fault for not remembering to carry foodstuff from household.

So this early morning, following a prolonged-awaited breakfast, I called the front desk to request regardless of whether attendees were being authorized to undertaking outside the lodge. Simply because of COVID-19 restrictions, I was told, “Only girls are allowed to go exterior these days. Adult males can go out tomorrow and the women ought to stay house.”

Baffled, I ended the phone and logged on to the U.S. Embassy in Panama site. Confident adequate, in an exertion to struggle the spread of the coronavirus the Panamanian federal government has issued gender “movement” limits.

Ladies are permitted to enter searching spots on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Men can do the similar on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The state is on entire lockdown from 9 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday.

Mainly because currently is Monday, the one girl on my crew is allowed to shop. The five guys — our captain, first officer, myself and the other flight attendants — are free to go away the hotel but are banned from retail institutions. (As it turns out, the details gleaned from the resort front desk experienced not been completely precise.)

The restrictions in Panama are as fluid as in other nations around the world. In Brazil, for illustration, crew users had been informed to keep on being on lodge property. We were permitted to leave our rooms but not the hotel grounds.

On Dec. 30 the limitations intensified due to the fact of an uptick in COVID situations. The next concept was sent by our labor union to some 20,000 flight attendants:

“Effective quickly, all crews traveling to [Rio de Janeiro] and [Saõ Paulo] will be demanded by the Brazilian Govt to fill out a Tourists Wellness Declaration Survey which must be accomplished 72 hrs prior to entry … On top of that, crew associates will not be permitted to leave the resort other than to and from the airport in firm provided transportation.”

But that concept was promptly amended. Throughout separate phone calls to the union and my flight attendant supervisor, I realized that crews laying above in Brazil are unable to, under any situations, leave the confines of the lodge space. Yet, my colleagues there convey to me the restriction is not remaining enforced.

COVID limitations are regularly evolving at house and overseas. And there are lots of holes in the technique. Simply because flight attendants like me are likely COVID-19 super spreaders — able of infecting travellers and crew on several flights to hundreds of places in a small period of time — it is up to us to strictly comply with protection protocols. Wash palms generally. Dress in masks at all instances. And continue being alone in your resort room for as extended as area regulations have to have.

Which is exactly what I have performed for the very last 30 several hours in Panama Metropolis.

Tomorrow, I fly 1 leg to Miami. A few hrs later on, I’ll operate a flight to Lima, Peru. According to the U.S. Embassy internet site, “All vacationers arriving to Peru must quarantine for 14 times on arrival.”

I’m just about certain this ruling does not use to U.S.-primarily based airline crews. But like all COVID-19 constraints, it could improve. I may spend the up coming two weeks holed up in a Lima lodge, composing about the outcomes of prolonged-expression quarantine.