Expat Ukraine Forum

Expatriate Cafe => Posting for postings sake => Topic started by: Brudder_A on 06:24 23-Dec-2020

Title: Travelling back to YKPAIHA
Post by: Brudder_A on 06:24 23-Dec-2020
Haven't posted here in a while - thought I'd give a bit of blurb which I also posted on another forum dealing with Coronavirus.

I wanted to give an update here on my experience with travel with this pandemic.
Since I wanted to get back to Ukraine for the holiday period and look after some personal matters that need my presence.

So I saw there was a window of opportunity to leave the US and get to Ukraine but the process had to be planned with possible alternatives given that travel could be interrupted or not done at all.

Travel documents needed in Ukraine today include proof of COVID-19 insurance for foreign travelers on arrival and if possible a negative test 24-48 before arrival - Otherwise you will need to download a tracking app and quarantine for 14 days.

So to start the COVID-19 testing I had one done in Las Vegas, which was free and administered by the Southern Nevada Health Department at the now temporarily closed Texas Station Casino. I arrived 1 hour before the testing began and the line of cars was about 2 miles. This grew to about 3.5 miles by the time the gates opened. The movement of traffic was remarkably smooth since the US National Guard was involved. The cars snaked there way in the Casino parking lot and then divided into 8 streams where oral testing was performed. About thirty minutes after movement began I was ready to be tested. The information was entered via a smartphone and passed ontothe SNHD by a QR Code which was read the military who were helping. It was efficient and I was amazed that given the amount of folks taking the test - not as stressful as what I saw back in March.

Test results were provided 3 days later. But I had an all nighter to Newark, NJ in 36 hours.

Before arriving to NJ I entered the State health website and reported my flight information and my data that I would be entering New Jersey. No later than 2 hours after arrival, while I was on the NJ Transit train traveling towards Trenton en route to Atlantic City I received a call from a NJ Department of Health employee
asking certain questions about my health and giving me direction that I "should" quarantine. I agreed but informed that I was in transit since I would be departing the state in about 72 hours via JFK/NYC out of the country. There was no other contact. While I was in ACity I did quarantine (US style not OZ style) and practiced social distancing, wore a mask everywhere etc etc etc. Of course I had to go the store to buy some things and go the bank for US$. Contact with others was minimal.

However, to suffice the Ukrainian government wishes of a timely COVID-19 test I went 24 hours before departure to a free testing site in Atlantic City. I arrived close to opening time and was amazed that
there were not that many people. Registration was online but walk-ins were admitted. Registration information was taken in an area where people entered by groups of 4 with social distancing in place. Again questions were asked about the state of health and why you were taking a test. This was much different earlier in March and April where you had to have symptoms to have a test. I was directed to the area where a nasal swab was taken. It was not too uncomfortable. Spoke a bit with the nurse about the process and left. Again I was told to check with the website in 3-4 days. Which of course was not really good for me because I had to present something in Ukraine that was a 24-48 hour confirmation of being negative of the virus.

Left ACity at 4:28am on the NJ Transit train via Pennsauken, through to Trenton and via Manhattan, A train to Lefferts Blvd in Queens and the Q10 bus to JFK. Took about six and a half hours for the travel but got their with plenty of time to prepare for the trans-Atlantic flight. The trains were not crowded and for the first time ever in NYC Subway system the public was as quiet as I had seen. No idiotic buskers. Even the walk from Madison Square Garden to  42nd St. Port Authority to catch the A train was eerily with more homeless than shoppers who would of been out in numbers for Xmas shopping.

JFK was breeze to get through. In fact just as the subway system in NYC is running at about 20% capacity, JFK one of the busiest airports in the world in pre-Covid times now it was like a deserted mausoleum. Turkish Airlines was a hive of activity though. Given that Yanks are not wanted anywhere in the Eurozone the only was to get Eastern Europe is via Istanbul and a couple of the hub cities which charge prices which returning OZ-compatriots would fork out if they wanted to go back home. Temperature reading were performed by Turkish Airlines officials at baggage receiving boarding, and by US TSA officials in security.  So leaving JFK was a rare on time event and arrival in Istanbul was 20 minutes earlier to due a tail wind which was perfectly placed. Transfer to Lviv was a bit hectic because if any place which failed in the social distancing category it was the security transfer area in Istanbul Airport where transfer passengers were herded and had little choice but to stand and move in a uncomfortable surroundings. Flight procedures were tightly monitored by attendants and for the most part all adhered to directives but some passengers need to be urged including 2 young Hasidic men from the US who were traveling in my second leg to Ukraine.

Arrival in Lviv, Ukraine was on time. All were rushing to get through passport control. Ukrainians returning and I would say that the majority of the flight were them had quick interaction with immigration officials but foreigners and me included were definitely asked questions.
However, from a COVID-19 point of view I presented the printed documentation of my insurance and English version of my Nevada Covid test result and I was given free reign. No question if I had to quarantine or whether I had a test before the flight.

I got to my destination Uzhhorod on the other side of the Carpathian Mountains later after a four and a half hour drive. There was a checkpoint at the border of Lviv oblast and Transcarpatia oblast something akin of what SA/Victoria had a for a while but the army guard only asked my driver for his license and did not ask anything of me. This is kind of bizarre because in xUSSR times this area was heavily fortified and movement was near impossible - but now being stuck in NSW and you cant move due to restrictions to Freedom of Movement. Amazing. OZ has become the most restrictive place on PlanetEarth.

So I thought I would get to check of my NJ COVID-19 test and just get a download of the results since it had been the three days since I arrived. Well as you can imagine I was NOT PLEASED!
My first reaction was - SH*TE, who the heck have I been in contact. But I settled down and thought something just can't be right especially since I've been running 5km for the last three days, I can smell my Calvin Klein aftershave and I can definitely scent Versace's Yellow Diamond on my better half.
Ehh - I confirmed with folks here and decided that I better take test#3 and get to the bottom of this.

Early next morning I went to a "no questions asked" clinic here in Uzhhorod  where the was a line of six wannabees and paid 1000 hrvnya (US35.70) for the COVID-19 test. Results would be back in 7 hours. And the result was what I expected.

Hence, my next move was to get in contact with company that performed the testing in NJ and give them some feedback, something which they did not expect. I also told them what I thought of the implication of a false positive test which could have unnecessary restrictions placed on individuals and asked that their administration look over the tests again and also contact me even though I am not in the USA. I have doubts that they will do that because after this experience I feel that some of these testing sites in the have the mission to cause mass confusion and loss of confidence.

Title: Re: Travelling back to YKPAIHA
Post by: David Rochlin on 20:27 23-Dec-2020
I also saw this window of opportunity to visit UA which opened and might not last.  It is good to know that Ukraine will accept a Covid test from more or less anywhere. The UA embassy website suggested the source of the test had to be authorized, but wasn't specific and I assume the Embassy hasn't gotten any better about answering phone calls, and that their voicemail is overflowing with messages as per usual. 
  I got my test at KBP and it took 19 hours to get a result. 
Be aware that PCR tests vary in accuracy according to the brand of the test and there can be a bias relating to demographics of those tested.  The tests generally give a false negative to 30% of people who are actually positive.  The tests can give a false positive to anyone who has had Covid in recent days, because the virus particles in the system of tested persons can be all dead and yield a positive result.  It can take days after recovering from Covid, to clear those dead virus bits.
  The cost of a PCR test at MedLab at KBP, one floor up from customs, was 1400UAH.  Results were delivered to my email as a PDF in both Ukrainian and English.  If you pay online, you have to bring the receipt.  They were open and doing tests at 02:00 .  You have to pay downstairs at one of the currency exchange booths, if you don't pay online.  The place where you can pay has a sign in English. 
Title: Re: Travelling back to YKPAIHA
Post by: Brudder_A on 06:19 24-Dec-2020
Good information to know about KBP. I didn't see any such signs at Lviv Airport although I beg to think that there would be some directive because temperature reading were done before passport control. If someone was not within the range then I'm sure testing would be must.
Title: Re: Travelling back to YKPAIHA
Post by: David Rochlin on 13:49 24-Dec-2020
Temperature testing is probably just go or no-go.  They might not allow people with a likely fever to pass if they have test results.  Bring ice if there is any doubt.  Temperature testing may be done at any large venue.  For example, when went to the supermarket at the Gulliver shopping mall in Kyiv and it was not either late at night or early in the morning, security would shoot my wrist with an IR, non contact thermometer.  I am sure some test result would not have got me past them.