Just after 6.00 AM Sunday morning we jumped on the very last commercial flight out of India. For now, India is sealed-off from the rest of the world.
No international flights was allowed into India after 5.30 In the morning today Sunday 22. March. This is part of explosive attempts to control the Covid-19 outbreak.
We are leaving an India on full speed into lockdown. Everything is closing, including schools, public transport, offices, shops and of course all types of events.
In our tiny Indian state Goa, still with 0 confirmed Corona cases, life has been amazingly normal even if the gym has closed down and people are wearing masks at the office. The last weeks escalations ended in a state of emergency yesterday, when even the boarders to neighboring states was decided closed down.
After the complete stop in international flights was announced a couple of days back, flight fares sky rocket and availability went to zero. The availability of our airline Qatar Airways also went to zero. 2 days of attempts to reach them in all channels to have our return tickets preponed 2 days, resulted in nothing. We understand it has been busy.
We had given up and decided to stay put in India to ride the situation off.
Last night: watching the sun set into the Arabic Ocean with a local wine in the glass -made it simple to rationalize and conclude that “our” place outside Panjim must be the second best place in the world to be stranded.
Then all of a sudden tickets again started to become available just hours before take-off. Unfortunately at rates that could probably buy small second-hand airplanes.
At the same time the the Norwegian Embassy and consulate offered us to get on a flight organized by the French government to get some of their citizens home. To us, such an operation proved the seriousness of the situation, so we gladly accepted. Checking our options for onward travel Paris to Oslo bounced us back to the stay-put strategy. Zero flight tickets available. This was hardly the right time for a train- or bus journey through Europe.
Today 22. March is the first time 1.3 billion Indians are asked by the government to stay indoor. I am sure it is not the last. India has a relatively low figure of positive cases so far; 370 -but the ball is really rolling faster now, so the timing for extreme measures is probably right.
So at some point last night we hit the “buy button” at the best time (as soon as flight fares went out of the buy-your-own-plane range).
Our taxi-friend in Goa was very quite when driving us on completely empty roads to the airport. Just weeks back he showed us a photo of the family posing with the second car he invested in. Now the hotel he is connected to closes down for a while. Let him be one example of a not even understandable number of small business owners out of business -in the blink of an eye.
On the flight to Qatar this morning we did not see one single Indian person. This plane was clearly packed with people going back home – many in a hurry.
When having the sun-downer last night, I had no idea that in a few hours I would be served sun-risers by flight attendants wearing masks and gloves.
It definitely added to the not-so-sweet evacuation feeling.
Military personnel being the welcoming committee on arrival to an almost deserted airport in Oslo late this afternoon, completed this surreal experience. Norway is as known much deeper into the crises with 2000+ positive cases.
I usually don’t drink in the morning.
Going west-bound today, I had the opportunity to have 2 consecutive Champagne-breakfasts.
Let that symbolize hope for a speedy recovery of my two countries. Both in lockdown mode with major challenges ahead. Let’s hope the massive attempts proves successful the sooner the better.