MY FAMILY had planned for a holiday in New Zealand more than half a year ago, and departed for the Land of the Long White Cloud in February.
While the Covid-19 outbreak had already happened, its impact had not been massive enough to hit our travel plans, which included flight transits in Singapore and Australia. New Zealand also had zero Covid-19 cases then.
My trip ended in Auckland and included a stay with a close friend and her family.
The phrase “saved by the bell” comes to mind in describing my return trip home.
On the day I was originally scheduled to fly back to Kuala Lumpur, my friend drove me to the airport and, on a hunch, said she would wait for me at the airport carpark until I had checked in.
To my horror, I was informed that one of my flights had been cancelled. That flight included a transit via Singapore which had closed its borders to tourists at that point.
I was then directed to the airline sales counter to look for alternative flights back to Malaysia.
My heart sank when the airline agent told me that all flights via Malaysia Airlines over the next few days were full, but she managed to book me a flight the next day on Latam Airlines that included a transit via Sydney.
The airline agent reminded me not to miss it, because Australia would close its borders a few hours after my Sydney transit.
So I spent another night at my friend’s house and prayed that I would be able to return home.
I was a bundle of nerves upon arriving at Auckland Airport the next day.
Passengers were directed to enter the airport via a single entrance. Security officers only allowed those with proof they were flying that day to go through.
The check-in process took nearly an hour.
I had to go to one counter to check-in, then another counter to get clearance from the Australian authorities to transit, collect my boarding pass and drop off my luggage.
With not much time to spare, I rushed to the customs and immigration gates, and finally the boarding gate for the flight to Sydney.
The nerve-wracking journey was not over, as I could only collect the boarding pass for my Sydney-Kuala Lumpur flight at Sydney Airport.
Upon landing at Sydney Airport, I rushed to find the correct transit counter, before being informed that the boarding pass could only be issued at the boarding gate.
It was only when I collected the final boarding pass that I heaved a sigh of relief as I would finally be able to head home safely.
Upon landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I was directed to a health check queue just before the Immigration counter.
All travellers and airline crew were required to go through this health check manned by Health Ministry and armed personnel.
I had to declare in a form my travel and contact details, and was then handed a health alert card to inform me on what I should do next.
This included a self-quarantine for the next 14 days, to monitor my body temperature and to maintain good personal hygiene.
The two-week quarantine went by relatively painlessly, with work, reading and watching television keeping me occupied.
One thing I observed is that Malaysia and New Zealand have slightly different measures in place during their respective movement control periods.
While Malaysia permits food deliveries and takeaways, New Zealand does not allow both; only food bag/ box services (pre-prepped meals or food subscription services with uncooked ingredients) are allowed.
Self-service laundries, exercise and dog-walking are not allowed in Malaysia while New Zealand permits them as long as social distancing is observed and activities are carried out within one’s own neighbourhood.
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