COVID-19 limits can be bewildering for airline crews

I’m a flight attendant for a legacy U.S. airline and am composing from a hotel place in Panama City, Panama. Now is Jan. 11. The scenario here is not superior. As of yesterday, the Panamanian Ministry of Health has recorded 279,196 complete cases of COVID-19.

The Facilities for Disorder Handle and Prevention categorizes destinations in accordance to chance:

• Stage 1: Reduced stage of COVID-19

• Amount 2: Moderate level of COVID-19

• Amount 3: Significant amount of COVID-19

• Amount 4: Quite large stage of COVID-19

Panama is currently at degree 4. On its internet site, the CDC’s warning is apparent: “Travelers need to prevent all travel to Panama.”

Nevertheless in this article I am, together with two pilots and three flight attendants who worked a flight from Miami the former evening. The Airbus 321S we flew in on is configured with 179 seats 108 had been unoccupied.

Right after I arrived at Tocumen Intercontinental Airport, a weary immigration formal stamped my passport. With a languid hand gesture, he directed me to the exit. But when I appeared around my shoulder, I realized my crew was not behind me in the queue. They had been being detained in a much corner of the immigration place by professional medical personnel putting on white lab coats.

When I recognized my colleagues have been remaining processed at a COVID-19 checkpoint, which I experienced in some way been allowed to bypass, I did a little something I have by no means completed in 35 several years as an international flight attendant. I turned all-around and walked again by the immigration checkpoint, exiting the place I had lawfully entered.

My temperature was taken by professional medical staff. I signed a document stating I experienced no COVID-19 signs and symptoms. I furnished my hotel and cellphone figures for get in touch with tracing. Then, for the next time in 20 minutes, I approached the immigration checkpoint.

The official nodded and waved me via.

At the Sheraton Grand Panama, the entrance, foyer and adjoining spots had been deserted. A lone front-desk clerk pushed our area keys via a slot in a tall plexiglass barrier. Because of to a federal government-imposed lockdown, she claimed, “All eating places in the town shut at 9 p.m.” This incorporates hotel dining places. Mainly because we arrived just after 9 p.m. there was no food stuff available. Any place. And no place assistance right up until 7 a.m. the upcoming working day. It is my fault for not remembering to provide food from property.

So this morning, immediately after a lengthy-awaited breakfast, I referred to as the entrance desk to ask whether company ended up allowed to enterprise outdoors the hotel. Mainly because of COVID-19 limits, I was told, “Only women of all ages are allowed to go exterior nowadays. Adult men can go out tomorrow and the women will have to stay property.”

Baffled, I finished the contact and logged on to the U.S. Embassy in Panama internet site. Confident plenty of, in an hard work to battle the distribute of the coronavirus the Panamanian federal government has issued gender “movement” restrictions.

Ladies are authorized to enter procuring places on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Adult males can do the similar on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The nation is on entire lockdown from 9 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday.

For the reason that these days is Monday, the a single woman on my crew is authorized to shop. The 5 adult men — our captain, first officer, myself and the other flight attendants — are totally free to go away the hotel but are banned from retail institutions. (As it turns out, the details gleaned from the hotel entrance desk had not been totally exact.)

The restrictions in Panama are as fluid as in other nations. In Brazil, for case in point, crew members had been advised to continue being on resort property. We were allowed to leave our rooms but not the lodge grounds.

On Dec. 30 the constraints intensified simply because of an uptick in COVID instances. The pursuing concept was despatched by our labor union to some 20,000 flight attendants:

“Effective instantly, all crews traveling to [Rio de Janeiro] and [Saõ Paulo] will be essential by the Brazilian Govt to fill out a Vacationers Health and fitness Declaration Survey which have to be accomplished 72 several hours prior to entry … Additionally, crew users will not be permitted to leave the resort other than to and from the airport in organization presented transportation.”

But that message was straight away amended. Throughout different phone calls to the union and my flight attendant supervisor, I figured out that crews laying above in Brazil cannot, underneath any conditions, depart the confines of the lodge place. Even so, my colleagues there explain to me the restriction is not becoming enforced.

COVID limits are frequently evolving at residence and overseas. And there are lots of holes in the method. Due to the fact flight attendants like me are possible COVID-19 super spreaders — able of infecting passengers and crew on multiple flights to hundreds of places in a shorter interval of time — it is up to us to strictly comply with safety protocols. Clean palms often. Dress in masks at all situations. And keep on being by itself in your resort home for as long as nearby laws have to have.

Which is specifically what I have performed for the last 30 hours in Panama Metropolis.

Tomorrow, I fly one particular leg to Miami. A few hrs afterwards, I’ll function a flight to Lima, Peru. In accordance to the U.S. Embassy website, “All vacationers arriving to Peru need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.”

I’m just about specific this ruling does not use to U.S.-based mostly airline crews. But like all COVID-19 constraints, it could modify. I may possibly devote the future two weeks holed up in a Lima hotel, crafting about the results of very long-expression quarantine.