Friday, March 27, 2020 4:43 pm
We then were interviewed individually by a health screener in a hallway in two orderly queues with each person standing back at whatever distance they felt comfortable with away from the person in front.
People on wheelchairs wanted to circumvent the queue but whereas one screener agreed to this, she berated her colleague for violating the three-meter rule by coming up to the rope boundary to talk to the wheelchair passenger.
Fast forward a week later to Tuesday March 24 when I flew back into the US.
At the airport, I was required , strangely enough, to use the immigration machines. After running my barehands on it and it’s failing to recognize my documents, I was referred to an immigration counter.
The immigration officer asked me to fingerprint with my barehands on his grimy palm reader device. I asked him if he had any sanitizer. He didn’t.
I did the fingerprinting on the grimy screen where hundreds would touch and had touched that day alone. He searched and found a tiny sliver of a wipe which he handed to me.
“I was very careful on the plane,” I quipped,” I wiped everything down.”
Maybe because of my response, he referred me for health screening. I had only been gone a week and had not been in any high-prevalence countries so I wasn’t sure what profile flagged me.
Three of us were taken to an immigration office where there were already 2 people. In 20 minutes the room was packed with about 20 people!
How could we be more competent at caging kids at border walls than at screening passengers at airport borders?
I had been in Nigeria and Ghana the month before. Since my earlier trip last month, the Abuja airport now had a huge thermal machine that captured your temperature after you’d crossed the screening interview.
In Ghana, the country had now imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Passengers were chauffeured, quartered and monitored at government expense.
There had been no US screening last month when I returned. I guess this time around was supposed to be an improvement…
As I scurried away to catch my connection to DC, I looked at the document CDC had given me and couldn’t miss the irony:
“You have traveled to a country with an outbreak of COVID19 and are at higher risk.”
As at today, the US infection rate is the largest globally at over 80,000 and 1000 deaths. Nigeria has 46 infected and ONE (1) death.
I went into self-isolation when I got to DC – because I had been in New York in a cramped room with 20 people for an hour waiting to be screened by the CDC.
Emmanuel Ogebe, an international human rights lawyer specialising in Africa lives in the USA