I was the selected few stuck out on a remote island in Indonesia known as Sumba. Little did I know the severity of how this pandemic would affect air travel and the lives of everyone around the globe. Unless you’re about 100 years old, the last pandemic of this scale was the Spanish Flu. I under estimated the scale of impact it would have on my life when I left home.
Although I felt relative safe being in an island that had very little tourist traffic, the uncertainty of when I could get home or if I can get home was, to say the least, daunting. If you are in the same situation as me, here are a few things you can do to think clearly.
Trying to stay calm and collected is bloody hard in this situation when the whole world is under a state of panic and fear. But you need to stay calm and level headed to be able to think of alternatives.
Number 2: Contact your Consulate
Best thing to do is contact your consulate.
You should always let your consulate (in the country you are visiting) know that you are on foreign soil so should something happen in the country you are in, they are aware of your presence and will be in touch with you to get you to safety.
When I contacted mine (Malaysian Embassy), they responded without delay and gave me alternatives to leave immediately as well as reliable news portals so I am up to date with what is going on.
Honestly, these communities are helpful. They put up credible information on what is happening and should you ask for help or advice, often, there is someone who has an answer or can point you in the right direction.
I was worried about overstaying my visa due to the flight cancellations in Indonesia, when I asked the group, two members replied and quoted a credible source stating that it was alright for me to overstay and that my visa will automatically turn into an emergency visa due to the current situation.
Number 4: Find out if you can get an emergency visa to prolong your stay
This helps when flying home is a long haul flight with multiple connections. With borders shutting and flights delayed or cancelled, you are bound to spend a long time in an airport or perhaps in a state of limbo. It is better to stay put where you are for the time being until a suitable route opens up for you fly home.
Number 5: Keep an eye on the news
On a daily basis, read up on the progress on what is happening at home and the country you are in. Once a day is enough so you are in the know of the situation and can plan better. If you read the news multiple times in a day, you are bound to panic, have anxiety or get depressed.
If you are Malaysian know that there is a Facebook page with reliable news such as Jabatan Perdana Menteri and Wisma Putra that provides information and helps Malaysians that are abroad.
Always have your bag or suitcase somewhat packed.
In situations like this, when border closure notice is 24 hours or less, you are able to quickly grab your belongings and head out to the airport.
Number 7: Keep up with the airlines
Find out which airlines are still operational from where you are to fly you home. This way, should you need you fly in 24 hours you know which airlines to fly with.
I would recommend looking at national carriers (from your home country and the country you are in) instead of budget airlines as in times of crisis, although limited, national carriers are usually allowed to fly to ferry citizens home.
Number 8: Stay Safe
Wear masks when you head out. Carry hand sanitizers or antibacterial wipes and use them when you are out on your grocery run. Do practice social distancing.
Sumba, has a movement control order (MCO) in place where the markets, schools and other social gathering places are closed. Despite seeing people in masks, they are still out and about, not practising social distancing as the MCO here is not strictly enforced. But they do keep a distance and put on a mask when they see a Caucasian walking down the street!
Also self quarantine when you get home! Don’t be that germ that spreads the virus - for once in this situation, sharing is not caring!
For Malaysians returning home, don’t worry, you’ll be quarantine in a hotel and taken care of. Will blog about my quarantine experience in the next post as I’m currently serving my quarantine.