The Centre is planning to ask outbound flyers from India on international flights to have a COVID-19 test done prior to their flight. This comes in the aftermath of Hong Kong government banning Air India flights till August 31 after 11 people tested positive for coronavirus on arrival there from Delhi.
In an apparent reference to the Hong Kong government’s move, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said: “I saw in one place that a number of people were found positive and that country or that city wanting to suspend flights. Look, we ourselves are of that opinion. When I heard this, I told Civil Aviation Secretary that we are insisting for the RT-PCR test certificate from people coming in, I would encourage that even for people going out of India … we will insist that they have a test done prior to embarkation. And we will do that”.
Currently, India has mandated a seven-day institutional quarantine and a seven-day home quarantine for passengers arriving into India on international flights, but has provided an exemption for those producing a negative certificate of an RT-PCR test conducted within 96 hours of their flight’s departure. Similarly, on inbound flights, only the crew that has tested negative for COVID-19 is allowed to operate flights to India.
In response to a query by The Indian Express, Hong Kong’s Department of Health had said: “As a flight operated by Air India (AI314) arriving Hong Kong from India on August 14 had 11 passengers confirmed to have infected with COVID-19, the Department of Health thus invoked the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H) to prohibit landing of passenger flights operated by Air India for two weeks from August 18 to 31 in Hong Kong”. According to a news report, Hong Kong officials had raised concerns over the reliability of tests in India.
“If you are carrying 280 passengers in a wide-bodied plane, and six or eight of them turn out to be positive … let’s get a realistic perspective on the figure. Many of the people are asymptomatic. We can go a step further and insist they have a test done prior to embarkation,” Puri said, while speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange event on Monday.
India banned all scheduled international passenger flights on March 23, and has since operated repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission in addition to the recently announced air bubbles with countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, France and the Maldives. “We were much ahead of the other countries in taking those steps (of restricting international flights) and that is what helped in containing the number of cases,” Puri said.
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