Complicated Traveling…

Date

*The case of KIA’s Covid-19 Protocols

Story: Benjamin ANSAH

Air travel changed after September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, creating new requirements to get on and off a plane.

After this horrendous attack on the twin towers in downtown New York and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.,  passengers were now required to take off their belts, get rid of any metallic objects, and ensure that they were not carrying any liquid more than a hundred millilitres (100ml) beyond any security checkpoint.

At some airports, passengers were also required to take off their shoes before going through security.

This created an enormous challenge for people who used to travel freely through the ports and would go as far as to see their loved ones at the gates. The situation for the last decade has created delays and discomfort for air travelers. 

As if this was not enough, a wave of another attack that could further worsen this situation came about. This time it was a “biological weapon,” an attack called Covid-19. Indeed anyone who has not heard of this attack must be living on a different planet or was born this morning.

Today, there are restrictions at airports all over the world. Those who think they can still pick their loved ones at 8:30 pm because the aircraft lands at KIA at 8:00 pm are senior jokers. Times have changed. It is no longer the case in this pandemic era.

The tightest restriction I experienced was at Heathrow Airport in London. This was before October 4, 2021. Since then the restrictions have eased up a little. Well, you cannot blame a country whose Prime Minister had to fight for his life because of this “biological” attack.

When he eventually won the fight, he was duty-bound to do all it took to protect the citizenry; and so, it was a call in the right direction to put enough restrictions in place to fight the spread of covid-19. The story is not different coming home to Ghana’s KIA, just a bit of a variation. The government is doing what it can to protect “Fellow Ghanaians”.

To arrive in Ghana through KIA these days, you must be aware of some additional requirements such as the following; Working credit card because some of the airports do not accept cash for payment, paying for your covid-19 test, access to the internet (whether on your phone or at the airports), complete a health form, complete a passenger locator form (in some cases), and above all make sure you arrive at the airport early enough for any unforeseen contingencies.

Once you prepare adequately, make all payments and complete all forms, you could reduce the possibility of facing a lot of frustrating moments. If you have not made payment and completed the relevant forms, you might be heading for a difficult trip.

All arriving international passengers including those from the ECOWAS region are required to meet a stipulated health requirement (1A through 1K) prior to their admission into the country.

f. Passengers will be subjected to a mandatory covid-19 test at the airport terminal at a cost to be borne by the passenger as indicate below: i Ghanaians and Ecowas citizens-$50 ii All other passenger -$150

Payment MUST be made online at https://myfrontierhealthcare.com/Home/Ghana and proof of payment (receipt) shown to Airline before boarding.

If you have already made the online payment and filled out the health declaration form at www.ghs.hdf.org, you can easily join the queue to verify payment. It is interesting to know that there are enough First Atlantic Bank agents doing this verification and the process is pretty smooth.

If you have not made payment and filled out the forms, then it might interest you to know that the free internet at the airport might not work. Your credit card should better be working before the trip otherwise you will not be able to take your covid-19 test in good time.

Once you have managed to take your covid-19 test, the immigration process is pretty easy. The luggage reclaim process is not a problem either but the main challenge comes with the covid-19 results and going through the final checks before getting out. This can take 10-30 minutes depending on how lucky one could be. You are required to check online for the result and if your name is present at the designated site, you then proceed for the printed results from two stationed health officials.

How could one be checking for their names with free but poor or unavailable internet service? At least the internet was not available at the time I arrived. Why do we have only two officers serving a whole lot of people at a time? Why are we using printed results in the process?

The only other way of verifying your results so that they could be printed was by checking with this under-resourced health personnel.

It was not an interesting scene seeing tired and overcrowded passengers with their luggage on carts, all converging narrowly toward these two officers either for their printed covid-19 results or to check if their results were in the system. This is illustrated in the captured image.

Many of the frustrated passengers bemoaned the exercise which they deemed unnecessary. Some believed it was designed by the KIA to make money. Well, one’s point of view depends on one’s viewpoint.

From where I stand, if it is indeed a money-making scheme, I believe it is in the right direction because Ghana continues to borrow for infrastructure creation. For example, we borrowed approximately $120 million from AfDB in 2015 to build Terminal 3 and if an opportunity opens up to make money to pay back some of these investments then that will be a step in the right direction.  We only hope that these monies will not end up in the deep pockets of officials.

To others, they couldn’t be bothered. They were just tired and wanted to go home to their families.

I was particularly impressed with how adequately resourced the payment verification team from the bank was. Paradoxically, the health personnel was woefully under-resourced. Perhaps, the money matters needed more attention than the health of our passengers. One is inclined to bear this belief because the crowd itself at the verification desk defeated all social-distancing practices.

Can we indeed afford to build a system with one hand and pull it down with another hand? The covid-19 disease is serious business contrary to what some people believe. Are they not aware that even the printed results are also an easy or convenient way of transmitting the disease?

Could they not provide true internet access that accommodates arriving passengers so that the result could be obtained online and displayed on mobile devices for verification? Did they not know that with such congregation, an arriving passenger could obtain a negative result but could be infected by a positive patient from the crowd or from the very printed negative result document?

These were the questions that ran through my mind as I stood impatiently in the queue for my turn. 

I would hope to write another piece entitled “Air Travel Made Easier” but until then, the following measures by KIA will be necessary.

First, travelers should be educated on the need to fill out all relevant forms and make all payments online as soon they confirm their travel plans. This also means that those lacking digital education will need to get help sooner rather than later.

Secondly, KIA needs to provide a comprehensive digital solution for the covid-19 testing results. This means that all covid-19 results will primarily be sent to the travelers through their emails except in special cases including computer illiteracy and disability.

Thirdly, the authorities should also provide good internet service to accommodate the number of arriving passengers at each moment in time.

All these will go a long way to reduce the discomfort associated with air travel.

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