Andrea Amato was a Maltese graduate student studying Psychiatry and Psychology in London when the global outbreaks of COVID-19 struck. With physical studies brought to a halt and the crisis flaring up in London, the 22-year-old fled to Sweden to stay with her father until she could return safely to Malta.
Flying in a global pandemic is unsurprisingly surreal; luckily, Amato captured the experience on film.
On deciding to return to Malta, Amato said it was always the plan to return to her friends and family, and the fact that Malta was coping well with significantly lower amounts of cases made a difference too.
“I was always planning to head to Malta at some point, it was just difficult and uncertain,” she said.
“I hadn’t been to Malta for about six months in which time I hadn’t seen my family and friends, and because at the time there was no word on whether the airport will open (and to what degree), my mum and I thought it was now or never in case I really wouldn’t be able to fly down in a long time.”
After contacting Air Malta and Foreign Affairs Ministry to book a repatriation flight on the 29th of May and with the help of Roberta Ellul from independent travel agency Connect Travel, Amato flew from Sweden to Frankfurt, where Air Malta was operating its repatriations to Malta.
“I was quite nervous, I knew I was going to be around many people and in fact, my first flight to Germany was quite full. Luckily the second flight, which was the repatriation, only had 13 passengers on-board and everyone spread out.”
“It was different and I was concerned there would be mishaps along the way because it was a completely different time to travel, maybe I would get stuck at some point. I didn’t even know if the flight to Malta would show up on the screen and I’d be running around, but I feel quite lucky and thankful that it was a smooth experience.”
As captured in the film, the once-bustling airports of Arlanda and Frankfurt were empty and stores were closed.
Amato noted that all passengers had to wear masks, and their temperatures were checked before and after the Air Malta flight.
“We had to submit our documents of where we will be self-quarantining with authorities in the airport. Before we could get our luggage a police officer had to confirm their localities with every passenger. Then, a paper was given in various languages that explained that the quarantine was mandatory and that spot checks by police would be carried out.”
Amato is currently undergoing two weeks of self-isolation, which finishes on 12th June at midnight, but with her remote studies, she’s more than occupied.
“I’m thankful that I have my thesis to do for university at the moment, so quarantine offers the opportunity to focus on nothing but that.”
And when her self-isolation finishes, Amato looks forward to spending time with her mother.
“It’s cheesy, but I’m excited to hang out with my mum, we are really close. Shes kept a bottle of wine for me for months to celebrate with me (since we’ve missed Mother’s Day, her birthday and Easter so we want to throw a little cute family party to celebrate everything.”