With both the Karnataka government and the Centre announcing a set of guidelines each for international fliers, the authorities at the Bengaluru airport and the passengers found themselves in the middle of a chaos from Tuesday midnight.
In an email communication to The Indian Express, the airport authorities said it is abiding by the new guidelines from Wednesday.
Officials informed around 1,600 international passengers arrived in eight flights since Tuesday midnight and of them, as many as 1,191 were from the at-risk countries. Meanwhile, the remaining 409 were from other nations or domestic flyers who had flown in from outside the country to other airports in India and then reached Bengaluru airport.
A spokesperson of Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) said, “Before the scheduled travel, all international passengers are required to submit self-declaration forms on the Air Suvidha portal, upload a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR report (conducted within 72 hours prior to the journey) and the vaccination certificate. Upon arrival, all the above will have to be shown to the airport’s health officials.”
Prasanth, a passenger who arrived at the airport on Wednesday from Doha, Qatar, said, “I had no idea about the new guidelines and even the airport authorities were confused. We were made to stand in a queue for testing which took almost three hours and there was no social distance. It could lead to getting exposed to Covid.”
Another passenger on condition of anonymity said, “It seems the rules have been made without thinking through the implementation process. Yesterday (Wednesday morning) I was made to wait in a queue for hours to get tested. The airport queues might end up becoming super spreaders for Omicron. The authorities should allow people to take RT-PCR tests, go home and isolate themselves until the results are out.”
A BIAL spokesperson, however, said, “Bengaluru Airport has always ensured adherence to Covid-19 protocols during the passengers’ waiting period inside the terminal.”
Meanwhile, BIAL said passengers have to wait for their results before they can leave the airport building. A spokesperson said passengers from at-risk countries (UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel) are required to mandatorily undergo Covid-19 testing at the airport on arrival.
“If they (passengers) test negative, they will have to be in home quarantine for seven days and get a retest on the 8th day of arrival. If negative, self-monitoring of health for the next seven days have to be followed. Samples of those who test positive will be sent for genomic testing and the passengers will be sent to a separate isolation facility for treatment as per the standard protocols,” the spokesperson added.
“Passengers coming from non-risk countries will be allowed to leave the airport but will have to self-monitor their health for 14 days post-arrival,” the spokesperson explained.
Two per cent of the passengers shall undergo random testing at the airport on arrival. Airport authorities said that such travellers shall be escorted by the airlines or the Ministry of Civil Aviation to the testing area upon arrival.
The BIAL said, in the coming days, the laboratory at the airport will be scaling up operations to cater to the increasing number of tests. “We have made adequate seating arrangements for passengers to wait for the RT-PCR results. Our teams have been extending all the necessary support to the Covid-19 testing laboratory and the Karnataka government staff. We have been constantly working closely with all the airlines and other stakeholders to minimise inconvenience to passengers,” the spokesperson said.