04 July 2009

Fear Factor...

Nowadays, everyone who travels by air goes through airport security checkpoints. These checkpoints are there to make sure that nobody brings ‘prohibited items’ into the secure area of an airport, or aboard an aircraft.

In some countries (and definitely in the US), you are required to remove your shoes before you enter the walk-through metal detector. If you do not comply with the security personnel, you will not be allowed to board the plane.

Added to this all-time high security, we now have the hassle of health quarantine officers to deal with, who not only slow the process down, but also can make it extremely inconvenient. Unfortunately, the airport security and possibly the H1N1 health security are here to stay and we must learn to adapt by being flexible.

Recently, I flew out of Chicago’s O’Hare airport on a United jumbo jet, and I was to transit in Shanghai Pudong (a major air hub and transfer point for flights throughout Asia) on my way back to Kuala Lumpur.

As soon as UA 539 was secured on the aerobridge, all passengers were held for two hours in the plane because China’s health officials boarded the aircraft in their attempt to contain the H1N1 virus.

In the plane, I saw something that I hadn’t seen before. About a dozen health personnel, in bio-hazard suits, scanned each of us – one by one – for any potential fever or other signs and symptoms of a virus.

While this is a good process to protect the people and the country (if the potential exists), it is very inconvenient for the 99% who are not running fevers or carrying a virus.

Also, all incoming passengers had to fill out a quarantine form, with addresses and telephone numbers required, upon landing in China. I think it is a total waste of time. It’s hard to imagine anybody with a sore throat, or having back aches and a slight headache, actually admitting it on a form, as it would expose them to a possible quarantine. Plus, the H1N1 virus can remain asymptomatic for the duration of 12 hours, so you might be infected without you yourself knowing it!

Despite these stringent checks, the authorities are also concerned about whether the disease could spread on the handle of suitcases. How do you escape that?

Recently the mayor of New Orleans arrived in Shanghai and together with his travelling group, they were quarantined for several days before being released to continue on their trip to Australia, so it can even happen to the bigwigs.

As I penned this editorial, according to the World Health Organisation figures, the H1N1 flu has spread to 74 countries, with 27,737 reported cases and 141 deaths. Consequently, for us to remain free from contracting the virus or at the very least, greatly lower our risk, it presently appears the only way to make our golfing trip less painful and less stressful is to stay at home and golf in our own backyard. Neighbouring countries, maybe?

In the July issue of Golf Malaysia magazine, we present you an array of home turf golf courses that are offering value for money packages, so check them out.

And, if you must travel and go through a China airport, remember, due to new, extra layers of security being implemented, you should plan your arrival extra early to make your connection on time, as China will quarantine you as soon as your plane touches down.

Happy golfing!

Juliana Cheah

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