On one hand, the world seems to be getting back to pre-Covid times with holiday shoppers and travelers starting to venture out. But on the other hand, the Omicron variant is surging and putting a damper on the holiday spirits in other parts of the world. On that note, today, the U.S reached a grim milestone of 800,000 Covid deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. I wonder when the whole world will reach a phase where people can go back to a normal routine, without having to worry about masks and sanitizers and such… or is this going to be our new normal?
Talking about travel, a friend’s father came from India two weeks ago and my MIL is reaching in a week’s time and during this three-week gap between the two itineraries, a lot has changed in the travel guidelines. The U.S. was requiring vaccinated travelers to show a negative Covid test, taken within 72 hours of departure, but now they need a test taken within 24 hours of the flight. Similarly, UAE is asking passengers to test at the airports (departure and arrival) in addition to the test taken prior to travel. My MIL is traveling with Mr. P’s cousin and when we inquired about this additional test, Mr. P learned that one particular lab was offering two types of tests at the Chennai airport: One that gave results in 4-5 hours (cost – Rs. 900) and one that provided results in 45 minutes-1 hour (cost Rs. 2,900). These two travelers got appointments for the first option, reached the airport by about 4 AM for a 9.45 AM flight, and went to the lab. There, they were told that they had to take the expensive test because UAE was accepting only that. It was very obvious that they were ‘milking the situation’ in my cousin’s words.
They were lucky enough to be able to afford the test; imagine the plight of passengers who for the sake of saying, work abroad, but make measly wages. They probably bring all their earnings to India, spend it on the family and other needs, and go back with bare minimum cash to get back to work. Being forced to shell out close to 3 grand for a test would be simply brutal.
What I am getting at is how Covid is now a business. I feel truly privileged to be in a country where even though a lot is wrong, the vaccinations are being given out free of cost, testing is not too expensive, and there are even talks of providing free home test kits to those who need it. Compare this to places like India where private hospitals are making money off the vaccinations, ambulances were charging exorbitant fees to take severely ill patients to the hospital (I understand that this was during the surge of cases and may not be the case now), and labs are taking full advantage of helpless travelers who have no way but to follow the so-called rules and take the expensive tests. If this is going to be our new normal, I am not going to like it much.
I first heard the phrase new normal after Mr. P’s cancer treatment. The doctors said that his post-treatment life would be the new normal. And now it looks like the whole world is entering a new normal, after having battled Covid for two years. Our new norm has been different, but good different. But the way things are going now, I feel that the world’s new normal will be anything but good.
Until there comes a day when people stop taking advantage of others, especially in the name of health, let’s at least try to consciously do good, stay happy, healthy, and safe as we enter year number three of the Covid rampage.