Responsibility lies with us whenever next we board a flight
Since 1970 when they started being rolled out, Boeing 747, the double-decker jumbo jets, were seen as a symbol of aspiration. In its incomparable mammoth build, the aircraft exuded power. It epitomised globalisation, a luxury ride coveted by high-flyers. Now, after half a century, it is no longer able to withstand financial strain. Battered by the pandemic, that once powerful symbol is being withdrawn from the skies.
We have seen in the past few months how the coronavirus has upended the travel sector and hit airlines across the world particularly hard. About 91 per cent of the 747 jumbo jets and 97 per cent of A380s are parked, the financial services company Credit Suisse estimated last month.
As evidenced by the global coronavirus cases tally having passed 11 million on Saturday, now is not the time to lower our guard
Besides the practical implications for the airline industry of the grounding of the 747, this can be read as an allegory for the changes continually unfolding in the space of international travel.
At the weekend, the UAE updated its travel guidelines. Citizens and residents are now allowed to travel if they adhere to precautions imposed to fight Covid-19. The UAE also carried out repatriation flights for huge numbers of people who had registered to return to their home countries. The coming weeks will see many more such flights take off.
These new permissions provided succour to countless families who have been apart all this while and unable to make plans due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. In the last week, we have learnt more about how and where we can travel and the documents and clearances needed in order to book tickets.
All these measures must be seen in the context of the government facilitating a gradual and cautious return to normality. Indeed in these past few weeks, we have seen a number of such steps that are a part of the broader tentative steps by the government to reintroduce things that we all took for granted a couple of months ago. On July 7, for instance, after a long gap, tourists will be welcomed back to the UAE.
But although the UAE has demonstrated its coping strategies and its continued emphasis on testing and its prioritisation of the health of its citizens and residents, this does not negate personal responsibility.
As evidenced by the global coronavirus cases tally having passed 11 million on Saturday, now is not the time to lower our guard. It remains up to each of us to not let the efforts of the UAE in the past few months go waste.
Again, personal responsibility – keeping those face masks on, maintaining the two-metre distance – is the only way to prevent an increase in cases.
Dr Amna Al Dhahak, a spokeswoman for the government, told The National that while economic and social activities had mostly been resumed, the public was responsible to adhere to safety measures to prevent a surge in cases. “If there is no compliance, the outcome will be negative. Significant steps and measures still need to be taken in the coming period. Let us protect ourselves and our families."
For whenever next we board a flight, we cannot afford to forget that message.
Published: July 5, 2020 08:00 AM