Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Emotional Reunion As First India Flight Lands In US After Borders Reopen

Newark (New Jersey): 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.

Parents 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.

The 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 travel.

The US 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.

"I 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.

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.

As the Air India flight from Delhi landed, Rupal Patel waited eagerly as she watched passengers gradually come out of the airport doors after completing the immigration formalities.

"I'm waiting for my father. He is 86 years old and I have not seen him in over two years," she said. 

Nirmit 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.

He said 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."

Brajendra 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.

Meetal 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."

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 Cansino.

Fully 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.

09/11/21 PTI/NDTV

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