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As flyers test positive upon arrival, states look to tighten SOPs

As of early Thursday, as many as four passengers, at least two of which were asymptomatic, had tested positive upon arrival.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi | Updated: May 28, 2020 7:54:44 am
coronavirus, coronavirus outbreak, india lockdown, domestic airlines resume, domestic airline passengers test positive, domestic passengers screening, domestic passengers test, indian express news Even as the Centre announced the restarting of domestic flight operations with a two-day notice, it failed to extensively consult with the states. (Representational Photo)

Even as most states have strict quarantine and testing norms for passengers arriving by domestic flights, some like Delhi, Goa, etc had comparatively easier standard operating procedures (SOPs). But now with some passengers testing positive for coronavirus upon arrival, a further clampdown of stance by the states on free movement of air passengers could be on the cards. Goa has already moved to compulsorily test all arriving passengers, unless they were able to produce a negative test-certificate.

As of early Thursday, as many as four passengers, at least two of which were asymptomatic, had tested positive upon arrival. All four of these travelled on the first day of resumption of flight operations. Tuesday, India’s largest airline IndiGo reported a 24-year old person on its Monday flight from Chennai to Coimbatore tested positive. Another passenger, a 50-year old, on board an Alliance Air flight from Delhi to Ludhiana was also found positive on Tuesday. On Wednesday, two passengers who flew to Guwahati from Ahmedabad on SpiceJet flights also reported positive for the virus upon arrival.

In SpiceJet’s case, red-flags are also being raised at the fact that since one of the passengers was flying from Ahmedabad to Guwahati via Delhi, the passenger should have been tested at Delhi itself but wasn’t since there is no mandatory testing for those arriving at the Delhi airport.

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Since it opened its airport to domestic passengers, the Goa government has changed its standard operating procedures twice. Earlier it had given three options — either get a Covid negative test certificate issued within 48 hours prior to the date of arrival by a lab authorised by ICMR or get test done at the airport for Rs 2000 and wait for results, or choose home quarantine. With the number of cases showing an increase, the Government has now removed the option of home quarantine with everyone having to undergo compulsory testing if they didn’t have a Covid-19 negative test certificate. Goa so far has 68 active cases of which 31 are active.

Even as the Centre announced the restarting of domestic flight operations with a two-day notice, it failed to extensively consult with the states. Hours before the recommencement of domestic flights, airlines were informed of the demands of certain states to operate curtailed schedules that led to cancellation of flights on the first day itself.

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An airline executive for a low-cost carrier said: “We really wish there was more communication between the states and the Centre. As the situation continues to evolve, there is a chance states might look at further tightening the noose on air travel. It is not fully viable to begin with but the uncertainty of this entire programme is what even more troublesome”.

Even though on one hand, the decision to impose quarantines are being looked at by state governments as essential measures to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, the aviation industry, globally, deems it to be affecting air travel. Speaking to reporters, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said: “I would also like to highlight a growing concern on the quarantine measures that some governments are putting in place. One development is of particular concern. That is the politicization of quarantine measures”.

“In response to the UK government’s announced 14-day quarantine measures for all arrivals, France announced that it would do the same for arrivals from the UK. Measures must be guided by science, not politics. And tit-for-tat quarantine measures are, frankly, unacceptable,” de Juniac said.

(With inputs from Smita Nair in Panaji)

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