24 Aug / Ebola
Yesterday was a long day of travel. From the early morning alarm (2.45am) to the four hour plane trip across the Tasman, to the two hour plane trip up the coast to the two hour drive along the Bruce Highway and not forgetting the four hours of pointless waiting at the airport, it was all a joy.
The joy was admittedly, in getting all of that behind us, but although I don’t want to wish my life away I would quite happily edit out any traveling time as I’m quite adept at playing Alphabetty on my mobile phone for hours already without requiring a small person behind me to kick the back of my seat.
One thing that struck me as different from the same trip performed last year was the additional card required to be filled out by all passengers now entering Australia.
The official name of the document is the ‘Travel History Card’ but for the purpose of ease and truthfulness I’ll just refer to it as the Ebola card.
The card requires any incoming passenger to fill out their passenger details. Not only specifying the flight number, but also he seat you occupied during the flight. You know, in case you have Ebola.
It then goes on to find out who you are as a person. What your full name is, where you were born, and your date of birth. It then makes idle chit-chat as it goes on to inquire where you’ll be staying, and how someone, like from the plague arm of the Australian Government, can get in touch with you.
The second to last question is whether or not you’ve been in Africa in the past 21 days? How kind of you to ask. Why, no.
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to answer that with a Yes instead of a No there’s a special treat question, the equivalent of a bonus round. It gets down to the nitty-gritty and asks you to specify which part of Africa you’ve recently finished visiting. Or, did you go to Ebola-infestation areas or just travel to the un-Ebola places?
Before you think you’re getting away with just that bit, you need to sign the official document, because it’s official and you could get in trouble if you’re committing the offence of lying to the Australian Government, nay the Australian People.
Lastly, there was a handy card which was designed to be torn off the document that you’re meant to keep with you for 21 days. It lists the symptoms of Ebola and tells you what to do if you think you’re developing this often-fatal disease.
I tore off the section, and then put the remaining part of the card with my incoming travel documents as requested so it could be collected by a ‘Customs Officer on arrival in Australia.’
Just in case your steward on the airline hadn’t handed you the document to complete, there were tables located every fifty metres down the airport terminal on the way to the Baggage Claim Area and Customs. They came complete with large signs clearly labelled with EBOLA and showing the comforting international symbols for infected people. In red.
When we headed through the first section of Customs we used the SmartGate so there weren’t any officers to collect it from us. We then had a nice man stamp our arrivals card as we waited to collect our luggage. Finally we handed over our Incoming Passenger Card and SmartGate ticket to the nice lady who was scathingly telling people that they weren’t giving her the correct documentation. At least I did, my darling picked a better queue.
I handed over all three pieces of documentation, because the Ebola card stated clearly to keep it with the Incoming Passenger Card so the Customs Officer could collect it from me.
She sniffed and handed it back saying, ‘I don’t need this. We don’t collect those anymore.’ I hoped the sniff wasn’t from Ebola.