NEWARK : Emotions ran high as the anxious wait of many Indians to reunite with their loved ones ended in joy at the Newark International Airport in New Jersey after the US lifted COVID-19 restrictions and opened its borders for international travellers.
who hadn’t seen their children in over two years, grandparents eager to hold
their grandkids in their arms, fiances waiting to reunite with their loved ones
were overjoyed to see their family members emerging out from the exit gate of
the airport, travelling on the first flight from India after the restrictions
were lifted on Monday.
coronavirus pandemic had prompted the US to close its borders to international
travellers from many countries, including India, last year. Later, only
passengers holding visas belonging to certain categories were permitted to
opened its borders for fully vaccinated tourists from November 8, gradually
moving ahead to a sense of normalcy and bringing families the joy of reuniting
with their loved ones.
booked the first flight on the first day,” Vipul Shah said as he arrived
with his wife. His two daughters waiting anxiously for their parents ran up to
them as they saw them emerging from the airport doors.
had booked the flight on November 1 itself when I heard that the US is opening
up travel for tourists again. But I re-booked them for November 8. I could not
wait for November 7 midnight when my wife and I will be able to sit on the
flight,” he said as tears rolled down his cheeks on seeing his daughters,
one of whom is getting married in Indianapolis.
have waited too long for this day,” the family said as they hugged and
took pictures, cataloguing their reunion.
It was a
similar scene for many families as they were reunited following more than two
years of having been separated from one another due to the pandemic.
Air India flight from Delhi landed, Rupal Patel waited eagerly as she watched
passengers gradually come out of the airport doors after completing the
waiting for my father. He is 86 years old and I have not seen him in over two
years,” she said. “He has been staying alone in Nadiad, Gujarat and
has been managing everything on his own throughout the pandemic,” she
said, adding that she and her siblings all live abroad and they also could not
travel to India during the pandemic due to the travel restrictions.
was speaking, her father came out. She ran towards him, touched his feet and
hugged him, both teary eyed. “It was a good flight. I’m just very happy to
be here,” he said as he hugged his daughter.
Shelaj was anxiously sipping water, watching others meet their families and
friends as he waited for his girlfriend whom he had not seen in over 9 months.
his girlfriend, Jolly Dave, a telehealth physical therapist, “used to say
this all the time that she wants to break this ‘Apple wall’, the FaceTime
thing. That technology cannot replace real human interactions.”
the pandemic has taught him that “the pandemic, the distance, they cannot
break our spirit. They cannot break our relationship, our affection and
feelings for each other.”
was among the last passengers to come out of the immigration. “One of my
bags had still not arrived. But I was ready to leave that as I couldn’t wait to
come out and meet Nirmit,” she said as the couple hugged, not able to
control their tears.
Brar had come to receive his pregnant niece and granddaughter. Excited to meet
them, he said it is still very important for everyone to follow COVID-19
protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing.
nice that the travel is opening up but we still have to be very careful,”
he said, adding that people no longer want to live with travel restrictions and
away and not being able to meet friends and families is not easy. The pandemic
has taught us that,” he said, adding that “it is up to us to ensure
that borders remain open, travel is not disrupted and we remain cautious.”
Sharma could not contain her tears as she hugged her daughter and son-in-law
waiting for her at the airport. Ms Sharma, who flew from Ahmedabad on the Air
India flight, said she had “no words to describe her happiness… We have
been waiting for this day since 2020. I cannot wait to meet my grand kids.
Today is a special day.”
option to keep doors open to each other is very powerful,” New Jersey
resident Rahul Patel told news agency PTI as he waited to receive his parents
who were flying in from Gujarat on the early morning Air India flight on
things can change,” he said, adding that if the doors are open then
“we can travel back and forth, visit families or loved ones who may be
can certainly go back and forth and that relieves a lot of pressure, knowing
that one can travel within a meaningful time frame.”
The US is
allowing fully vaccinated travellers with shots from COVID-19 vaccines approved
by the World Health Organisation, except Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s
travel guidelines include protocols around testing. To further strengthen
protections, unvaccinated travellers – whether US Citizens, lawful permanent
residents (LPRs), or the small number of accepted unvaccinated foreign
nationals – will now need to test within one day of departure.
vaccinated travellers will continue to be required to show a pre-departure
negative test taken within three days of travel to the US prior to boarding,
the statement said.
minors will need to test at the same time as the adults with whom they are
travelling – three days with vaccinated adults and one day with unvaccinated
after more than 18 months of pandemic-related travel restrictions, the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking a critical step toward resuming
normal travel,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation are
now permitted to enter the United States via our land and ferry border
crossings for non-essential reasons such as visiting friends and family and
engaging in tourism,” the DHS said in a press release.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is working to prevent long lines at land
ports of entry and ferry terminals as normal travel resumes, it added.