Traveling during the coronavirus. Getty For intrepid travelers who are both able and willing to travel abroad during this unprecedented 2020 summer of COVID-19, perhaps the biggest challenge is finding a country ready to welcome them. With many countries around the world completely closed to foreign travelers, and severe entry restrictions and quarantine requirements are in place for many others, the prospect of traveling abroad at this time is daunting, and those who choose to do so must be well informed and prepared for what awaits them. Elan Zohar, an American student, outside the empty international terminal of LAX Tom Bradley on … [+] his way to Seoul, South Korea Elan Zohar As our family enjoys our first domestic summer in memory – the long-awaited trips to Europe and Japan for the Summer Olympics had to be canceled – a member of our family n ‘Did not let the global pandemic spread in the way of his travel plans, but rather embraced the new realities of international travel, treating quarantine in a distant country as just another travel adventure. My son Elan, a rising junior in Princeton, obtained a summer internship a few months ago in Seoul, South Korea, to be informed at the beginning of April of the new policy of the Korean government according to which the foreigners entering the countries must undergo a 14-day quarantine in a government-run establishment on arrival. Faced with the prospect of losing his hard-earned internship, Elan did not hesitate – he would do whatever it takes to get to Seoul. View of departure board near empty Tom Tom Bradley terminal, Los Angeles … [+] Airport (LAX) during the COVID-19 epidemic. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP via Getty Images) AFP via Getty Images Elan’s trip to Seoul in late May started at LAX, where we dropped him off and we said goodbye were only taken aback by a sight at the Bradley International Terminal which was nothing short of surreal. At a time when the terminal was normally full of international travelers, it was rather completely empty. Korean Air ground personnel wearing masks to protect themselves from highly contagious coronaviruses … [+] working at the counter to check in passengers at the terminal (Photo by Yichuan Cao / NurPhoto via Getty Images) NurPhoto via Getty Images In fact, Korean Air had the only ticket counter operating in the terminal and the only international flight taking off that night -the. . After assuring both the counter and the door staff that he was aware of the quarantine requirements and that he had not been booked into Seoul in error – and after taking his temperature – Elan went upstairs to on board his flight. Temperature control before boarding a Korean Air flight. Korean Air On board, Elan was greeted by flight attendants who appeared to be coming out of the emergency room – dressed in full medical coats, masks and even glasses – and, to his surprise, a full flight. Korean Air flight crew dressed in head-to-toe protective gear during the flight. Korean Air Upon arrival at Incheon Airport in Seoul, Elan was taken with the other passengers on a line of several hundred people – and more than an hour -, leading to an initial health check where each individual received a color-coded lanyard and various stickers depending on their particular situation. It was only the first in a series of lines and checkpoints, each requiring the completion of new forms. In one place, Korean citizens were separated from foreigners. Hundreds line up at Incheon Airport. Elan Zohar In another, authorities ensured that each arriving passenger had downloaded and installed the special quarantine cell phone application that would allow the Korean government to monitor new arrivals for the next few weeks. In yet another, soldiers telephoned the local reference that had to be provided on each arrival. It must have been someone who lived in Korea, spoke Korean, and apparently was ready to answer the phone at 5 am local time. It is this person who would be contacted if the authorities lost track of the quarantined person. After going through customs and baggage recovery more typically, he then went to a final waiting area, which over the course of another hour slowly became populated by foreigners who were soon to set out in quarantine, while in the distance, arriving Korean passengers were greeted by family members who were waiting and left the airport freely to quarantine. Almost four hours after arriving in Seoul, Elan’s group – who did not even seem to understand a single other American – were taken out of the airport and on a waiting bus, to be transported to a mysterious location which would serve as a home for the next 15 days. As Elan knew from previous research, the South Korean quarantine sites cover the whole range of dilapidated government facilities to luxury hotels taken over by the government and can be located three hours from Seoul. But it would be his lucky day – after a short ride, Elan’s bus stopped at the 5-star Grand Hyatt Incheon. Foreigners arriving in Seoul are put directly on a bus to the quarantine hotel. Elan Zohar Rather than a doorman or a bellboy, it was a team of workers in a combination of hazardous materials that welcomed the now happy group of quarantineers. They proceeded to disinfect the arriving bus and take the temperature of each passenger. Temperature control of foreigners leaving the bus from the Grand Hyatt Incheon airport, … [+] South Korea, where they will be quarantined for 15 days. Elan Zohar Once inside the hotel, individuals were taken to kiosks for more paperwork, more instructions and, finally, for payment processing. At a cost of 1.4 million South Korean won – about $ 80 a day – for luxury accommodation and 3 meals a day – this was an exceptional deal. Registration at the Grand Hyatt Incheon during the pandemic. Foreigners are registered and administrative formalities … [+] is confirmed in the lobby. Elan Zohar Two beds in a large room the Grand Hyatt Incheon, South Korea who has been appointed official … [+] Coronavirus quarantine hotel for foreigners. Elan Zohar Elan’s room was large, with two beds that could easily accommodate four people. Quarantine, however, was strictly a solo business – even forcing married couples to separate – and leaving your room was strictly prohibited. Without cleaning possible, the availability of two beds in a room made it possible to change the beds instead of the sheets during the two weeks of quarantine. The rooms at the Grand Hyatt Incheon were equipped with enough Balmain equipment to last two weeks. Elan Zohar View from Elan’s room at the nearly closed Grand Hyatt Incheon at Incheon Airport, where only … [+] a handful of fights took off daily. Elan Zohar Elan quickly settled into his new routine. Meals in plastic containers were delivered promptly at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., with a ringing bell indicating that the food was outside the door. Food strategically placed outside the doors of quarantine guests. Elan Zohar Daily breakfast alternated between Western (eggs, pancakes, sausage) and Asian (congee), accompanied by orange juice and coffee. Lunch and dinner included a rotation of chicken, bulgogi, fish and pasta, always served with rice. Breakfast served daily, consisting of eggs, sausage and a banana. Elan Zohar A typical Korean dish served during quarantine at the Grand Hyatt Incheon. Elan Zohar While overall the meals were adequate, it was the large supply of snacks brought home that really kept Elan from being hungry. 6.30 p.m. marked the start of the evening KBO – Korean baseball – entertainment games. 7:00 p.m. brought a knock on the door and daily temperature control, in addition to the daily temperature reading and health update that Elan himself had to enter into his application ‘self-quarantine. 15 day quarantine snacks. Elan Zohar At 8 p.m., the daily garbage had to be left outside the door, wrapped in orange distress bags and sprayed with disinfectant. Interrupted throughout the day, Elan managed to follow a fitness program – 250 push-ups, 6 minutes of plank, 5 minutes of sitting on the wall and 10 minutes of jumping. He also managed to exercise his mind, adding 10 to 15 words a day to his Korean vocabulary. And so it is, day after day, for 15 days. Perhaps most importantly for maintaining his sanity, Elan’s room was equipped with solid and reliable Wi-Fi – which is not surprising in a country dubbed the “world capital of bandwidth” . With so little human interaction over a long period of time, this connection to the outside world has been invaluable, allowing Elan to deal with FaceTime family and friends and, of course, to play video games and to watch their favorite shows on Netflix. His idea of packing a big screen in his suitcase turned out to be judicious, making his time in front of his computer more bearable. Elan brought an extra large screen with him knowing he would be on his computer for much of … [+] quarantine. Elan Zohar At the end of his quarantine period, Elan was able to delete his quarantine application, call a taxi and go to Seoul, without any other requirements related to COVID-19 (apart from wearing a mask, of course ). Although the experience is not an experience he would like to relive, it is certainly an experience he will never forget and the merits of which he can appreciate. It is in large part because of the organization, discipline, attention to detail and dependence on technology that Elan experienced during her quarantine that South Korea has handled the pandemic so well. At that time, Seoul, a city of about ten million people, suffered only 9 deaths from Covid-19. Life in South Korea, unlike the United States and everywhere else, is very close to normal these days, and two weeks of quarantine was a price Elan was willing to pay for this normalcy. Now well into his internship and taking advantage of all that Seoul has to offer, there may be some time left. A couple wearing masks walks around Seoul Square in front of Seoul City Hall (photo by … [+] Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE / AFP via Getty Images) AFP via Getty Images.
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