What needs to be done before flying to Russia in a pandemic
Slightly stupefied from sitting at home in a covid-covered Munich, my wife and I decided to fly to Russia to see how life is in no less covid Moscow and, most importantly, to visit elderly relatives. We had no doubts about air tickets: only one S7 flight flew from Munich to Moscow in March 2021. Once a week, on Mondays. Exactly a year ago, we already bought tickets for a flight of this airline, and it was canceled (we found out about this just three days before departure). After a relatively short silence, the airline offered us vouchers for the lost money, and we agreed. At the risk of being accused of advertising S7, I will honestly say that the airline fulfilled its obligations and these vouchers were credited to us at the cost of new tickets. True, I had to pay extra: tickets in 2021 cost about 20% more than in 2020. But there was no choice.
Then it was necessary to understand what to do before departure and upon arrival in Moscow. We, as law-abiding citizens, decided to do everything according to the rules. We went to the website of “Gosuslugi” and registered. For this, for some reason, our photographs were required, as for a passport, which also had to be uploaded to the site. We took a picture, uploaded it, filled out a questionnaire, printed it out (as it turned out later, all these actions were completely unnecessary). Two days before departure, the spouse said: – And let’s just in case we do a PCR test (that is, a smear) for coronavirus in Germany. – Done. Is it difficult or what? The test is free for everyone, there are no queues at testing centers in every city. We got a piece of paper, checked in on the Internet for the flight and took a breath.
The result of a PCR test is needed only for foreigners
On the day of departure, we decided to go to Munich airport earlier than usual and, as it turned out, not in vain. Terminal 1 of the airport named after Franz Josef Strauss, which, unfortunately, did not write waltzes, but was a famous Bavarian politician, turned out to be … closed. We did not look at the printed tickets, but drove out of habit to the place from which, in dock times, flights of Russian airlines usually took off. The building of Terminal 1 made a strange and sometimes eerie impression: the parking lots and the doors of the terminal were open, but there were no people in it. Not at all. No passengers, no employees, not even police officers. For some reason, I recalled the horror stories I heard a long time ago, in Soviet times, about a neutron bomb: they say, they will drop one, all buildings and cars will remain in place and even work, but people … people will disappear. It turned out to be not so easy to get out of terminal 1 and move to terminal 2, from where, as we finally found out, our flight took off, but after circling for 10 minutes around the airport and saying a lot of unflattering words about the pandemic and about the lack of clear signs, we nevertheless reached Terminal 2, from where Lufthansa and other non-Russian airlines took off in normal times. And we ran to the bottom floor of the building.
We were in no hurry. Terminal 2 was also empty, with two long check-in lines in only one wing. The lines consisted of people who seemed imperceptibly familiar to us. – Ours, – we thought and were not mistaken. Why in all countries of the world I unmistakably recognize my compatriots, even for decades living abroad? I have not been able to solve this riddle and, apparently, will never be able to solve it. One of the lines, judging by the sign on the scoreboard, was for people who had already registered online. We bravely stood at the very end of it, hoping that it will go faster. In vain, another line of non-registered in advance ended faster than ours. Does this always happen, or does it just seem so? At check-in, we were not asked for a piece of paper about the coronavirus test, but they demanded from arriving compatriots from other countries, Austria, for example. Well, let’s keep in mind. After registration, we quickly ran up to the second floor and went through passport control – there was no longer any queue. This terminal, unlike the first, was not completely empty, there was even a duty-free shop, mainly for passengers with tickets without luggage, who were especially eager to buy a bottle of schnapps in the end. The virtual neutron bomb, apparently, fell here too, but at duty-free it probably didn’t raise a hand. My wife immediately went to the perfumery department, from where the smells of the old, free and wonderful life came from.
Nobody canceled paper questionnaires
The plane was full, we mentally praised ourselves for not sparing money and having reserved the seats we needed in advance. I have not seen a single German or Russian-speaking person on our flight. The contingent of passengers consisted, apparently, of compatriots permanently living in Germany and neighboring countries, who, for some personal reason, urgently needed to go to their historical homeland. Some families flew, as they used to say, with children and household members – including babies. Well, it is necessary – then it is necessary. The aircraft personnel politely reminded that masks should be worn during the flight, and all passengers accustomed to foreign discipline obeyed. Then, flight attendants and stewards began to distribute questionnaires about the planned place of residence, etc. To my weak objections that, they say, we already filled out online, I was briefly replied: – We were ordered to distribute to everyone! – Well, well, we filled it in again, we have nothing to hide. During conversations, filling out questionnaires and consuming airplane food and drink, three hours flew by unnoticed. And now the snow near Moscow can be seen – a decrease and a landing.
Minimum distance? It was not there …
Our plane, as it turned out, was towed to the farthest parking lot. They were all loaded onto buses, stuffing passengers like sprats in a jar. What is the distance, there would be no one to step on … We drove for a long time, so long that it seemed that they would take us straight to Moscow, to the Domodedovskaya metro station. But no, they stopped at the dark entrance, and all the passengers, almost knocking over each other, rushed to passport control. There was something familiar and even imperceptibly familiar in this. We went through control quickly and got our luggage – Domodedovo airport was also empty, our flight at such a late hour was, it seems, the only one. After leaving the turnstiles, we called a Moscow taxi, which was cheap by German standards. A stern bearded taxi driver, sparkling with pitch-black eyes, gloomily loaded our belongings into the trunk and flatly refused to put on a mask: – They don’t help at all! I’m telling you for sure. – But I insisted, they say, the wife is worried. “Women,” the taxi driver said, holding up his hand. But he put on the mask.
What to do upon arrival
According to the rules, within three days, make a PCR test and upload its result to the “State Service” website. There are a lot of opportunities for this in Moscow: the test can be done even at the airport. But we preferred to follow the known path and make it in our district clinic: if you have a Russian compulsory health insurance policy, the test will be free for you. We called the clinic, signed up, and did it on the same day. I had to wait for the results not just one, as in Germany, but two days, but exactly 48 hours later I received an SMS with a negative result on my phone. Digitalization in Russia, of course, has made great strides, but it has not yet reached the point of uploading the results directly from the clinic to the website of state services. I had to go to the clinic, get a piece of paper, put a stamp on it, and only then upload it to the site.
Vaccination in Russia – registration the next day
Then the question arose about vaccination against the same virus. After waiting a couple of days, all in doubt, I called the telephone number given to me at the clinic. – Can I sign up for next week? – Why pull something? – A friendly female voice answered me in the receiver, – come right tomorrow. (For comparison: in Germany I was told that my turn would come up somewhere in July). And I agreed.
In the vaccination center, already in another clinic, there were surprisingly many people. I was allowed to fill out a questionnaire without even asking for a passport. – Do you always have a queue? I asked. “No, no,” a woman in a white coat answered me, “two days ago there was no one, and then the president was grafted into himself, and everything fell off the chain. – Having gone to the doctor with an unpronounceable name and patronymic, I told about my sores, about the medications I was taking. “Don’t worry,” he replied, “we are here, only in our center tens of thousands of people have already been vaccinated, and not a single complaint. So, the temperature of some people jumps slightly, so what is it? Little things! – Little things, but you yourself, dear? – I wanted to ask the doctor, but for some reason did not ask.
The vaccination queue moved quickly, the patients were divided into fives (apparently, there is so much liquid in one bottle), but they were started one at a time. Waiting for my turn, I bared my hand with a slight trepidation and began to look away. – What are you worth? – the nurse told me, – Get dressed! – To my shame I must confess that I felt nothing, no pain, no push, nothing at all. After receiving my certificate and an appointment for a booster shot, I went outside. The sun was shining, naked spring trees were reflected in the puddles. – Well, – I thought, – let’s see what happens next, and so far: the flight is normal.
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