Right now, most Americans are still under stay-at-home orders, as are citizens of other nations.
We hear the President saying we need to reopen our country. We hear governors and mayors and other talking-heads reassuring us that things will get back to normal soon.
Well, if you’ve noticed – and taken offense to — the startling effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on your personal liberties (and who hasn’t?), things may start getting a whole lot worse.
The Road to Perdition
Even when we’re given permission by our state leaders to venture out again for anything other than booze and toilet paper, it’s going to take a long time for the average American to get over the fear placed in our hearts by the media.
We’ll be itching to go out to eat again, to go to a concert, or watch our kid’s ball game – but we’re probably going to be cautious doing so.
We’ll probably wear masks for a while – whether we want to or not. We’ll carry our hand sanitizer and wipe down tables and seats. And we’ll leave six feet between us and strangers.
It’s amazing how quickly we all get conditioned to a certain way of life. Amazing and scary.
If the prospect of transitioning back into small activities is going to be a daunting task for some, imagine what it will be like when we’re allowed to travel again.
Air travel – worldwide – is down by more than 90 percent right now. For those who still need to fly, they’re met with delays and confusion, if not long lines at security.
The airlines need us to get back out there soon, just like every other business does.
But whether it’s their interpretation of our supposed fear and hesitation or to protect themselves from further damage to their bottom line (pretty sure it’s the latter), they’re apparently not going to take any chances.
In the very near future of air travel, you won’t just be scanned for GSR and explosives or for stashing a bottle of mouthwash over three ounces.
You’ll have to bleed.
The future is now.
And I mean that literally. Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai, just crossed a line we never thought we’d see – and many industry insiders believe it may become Standard Operating Procedure for longer than we think. Maybe permanently.
Last week at Dubai International Airport, passengers boarding their flight had to undergo testing for COVID-19.
Now, at the outset of this pandemic, we saw news reports of passengers having their temperatures taken, along with other semi-non-invasive procedures.
But Emirates mandated that passengers would have their blood drawn by the Health Authority (the name says it all) for a rapid antibody test if they wanted to get on their flight.
Results were available within ten minutes and the airline’s CEO says they’re working to expand testing to other flights, eventually across the board.
This is just one more addition to their lineup of returning people to the skies – albeit way out of their comfort zones.
They’ve already taken away blankets, pillows, magazines, and even carry-on luggage.
Other airlines in the United Arab Emirates are already performing “well checks” at kiosks prior to flights. Staff are scanning passengers’ temperatures, heart rate, and respiration before check-in.
Any sign of illness is reported to other staff and passengers may be refused boarding.
I wonder if an alarm goes off somewhere in the airport. “He’s got a temp of 99! Danger. Danger. Whooop. Whooop.” I can picture them coming out in hazmat suits and escorting someone off to a secret decontamination zone.
If that sounds like an exaggeration, just think of what we already had to go through to board a plane when things were “normal.”
Metal detectors, taking off shoes and belts, full body scans, strip searches, and confiscation of suspect luggage.
And if you think it could never get worse, just watch any futuristic sci-fi movie. “Do you have your travel papers,” may be nothing compared to, “Please step through here so we can scan your microchip.” (Or worse, “This rectal probe will only take a moment.”)
Oh, it gets better: Hong Kong International is the first airport to mandate COVID-19 testing for passengers.
Travelers arriving from high-risk areas will be administered rapid tests. But these results are not available in ten minutes like those used by Emirates. They take up to eight hours, and people are sent home to wait for results.
If the result is positive, the would-be traveler is then required to self-quarantine for two weeks.
But this is not your average “self” quarantine, however.
This quarantine is enforced with wristbands – waterproof and non-removable – embedded with a tracking code.
In Tokyo, passengers returning from high-risk countries must undergo testing before they can leave the airport to go home. The six-hour wait time is taking far longer than that due to delays, so it can take two days to get the all-clear.
But they’re looking out for your comfort. While you wait, you can stay in one of the in-airport hotels (on your own dime, I’m sure) or crash on a cardboard bed set up in the terminal.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Now, the rationale is not just safety – or rather, public panic and fear-mongering – but also airlines’ liability and bottom line.
They also claim they are putting travelers through all of this to meet the criteria demanded by other countries like Germany that require COVID-19 certificates – a so-called “clean bill of health” – to cross into their borders.
So what does your average Joe think about all this?
Some have commented online that turning airports into doctors’ offices – usually without actual doctors involved – would make them more inclined to fly sooner rather than later.
That’s exactly what they want – to give us a false sense of security.
Others say they understand the reasoning behind the testing, but they’d rather take their chances than spend more time stuck at the airport.
And then there are the rest of us who think things have gone way too far.
Giving a blood sample to travel is not just an inconvenience or a nuisance. There are a whole other range of factors to think about, like having our DNA in the hands of foreign governments – or even our own.
We’ve lost enough of our freedoms due to this terrible pandemic. I’m not giving up any of my bodily fluids willingly.
A little perspective…
Look, I get it. No one wants to get sick with this thing. No one wants to endanger their families or other people’s families.
I have an adult daughter working in a hospital. She lives at home with us and my younger child. I worry every day and I want this all to be over with just like everyone else.
But airlines fully believe that no one will start to travel again until they have more of a guarantee that they won’t get sick.
The thing is, we’re always skirting danger each day. We still travel during flu season, we know there’s always a chance we could get hit by the airport shuttle while bending down to pick up our wallet or… the plane could go down in a fiery blaze.
There are a million things that can go wrong, but we don’t obsess over those things because we’d rather take our chances and live than spend our lives in fear.
So why are we losing more and more freedoms each day in the name of keeping everyone safe?
What’s the joy in living if we’re going to be told for who knows how long that we can’t see the people we love, or view masterpieces in a museum, or travel, or even sit at a bar and have a good talk over a nice stiff drink?
Many people are going to find an alternative way to travel if we now have to give blood to board a plane. And some people will be ok with giving their blood.
I am not one of those people.
At least for now, U.S. airline insiders are saying it would take a very, very long time for testing to be fully implemented across the board – so long that it probably won’t be necessary because the virus will either go back to the hell from whence it came, or we’ll have better treatments to deal with it.
Only time will tell, and everyone can make their own choice about whether they’re willing to give a blood sample to be allowed to fly.
As for me and my Lysol, I’ll be taking road trips if this is the future of air travel.