As flight operations in the country resumed Monday after two months, Bengaluru airport saw heightened safety measures, some disappointment over cancelled flights, and many passengers glad to be back home.
Among the passengers was a five-year-old boy from Delhi, who came to Bengaluru alone on a ‘special category’ ticket.
Vihaan Sharma had been stuck in New Delhi for the past three months at his grandparents’ house. On Monday, his mother Manjeesh Sharma came to receive Vihaan at the Bengaluru airport.
The airport officials brought Vihaan outside the exit area, where his mother was waiting to pick him up. Vihaan was wearing a yellow jacket and mask, with a placard reading ‘special category’ passenger. He was also seen holding a mobile phone in his hand.
— BLR Airport (@BLRAirport) May 25, 2020
Speaking to reporters at the airport, Manjeesh Sharma, said, “My son was at his grandparent’s house in Delhi for the past three months. Once flight operations started, we booked the first flight for him to come back to Bengaluru.”
Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda skips quarantine
Union Minister and BJP MP from Bengaluru North Sadananda Gowda came into controversy after he landed at the Bengaluru airport and directly left in his personal car, skipping the institutional quarantine.
Gowda landed in Bengaluru from Delhi. Defending himself, the Union Minister said “I being a Minister-in-charge of Department of Pharmaceuticals, which comes under essential supplies, I am under the exempted clause and hence was allowed to skip the institutional quarantine. As a pharma minister, I need to check production, supplies and ensure it reaches the last point, it is my responsibility.”
Meanwhile, the Karnataka government also came to his defence. Karnataka education minister and spokesperson for Covid-19 in the state, S Suresh Kumar, said, “Sadanada Gowda is exempted in his capacity as a minister handling the pharma sector. The Centre had issued orders exempting such people handling essential sectors from quarantine norms.”
Flight cancellations upset passengers
Many flyers were left disappointed at the Bengaluru airport on Monday as several flights were cancelled.
According to a statement by the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), a total of 74 flights were cancelled on Monday. Passengers of Air India Bengaluru-Hyderabad flight complained that the airline did not give any prior notice of cancellation of the flight.
“We got to know that the flight was cancelled only when our boarding passes were scanned at the airport entry,” said a passenger.
After two months of airline suspension in the country, the first flight, an AirAsia India service to Ranchi took off at 5.15 am from the Bengaluru airport.
— Darshan Devaiah B P (@DarshanDevaiahB) May 25, 2020
As of 5 pm on Monday, the Bengaluru Airport registered a total of 74 Air Traffic Movements, including 43 departures and 31 arrivals. The first arrival was Indigo from Chennai at 7.35 am.
“The innovative contactless procedures and the stringent operating procedures introduced to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission ensured all passengers had a seamless airport experience. BIAL, operator of Bengaluru Airport, will continue to work closely with various Government departments to ensure that air passengers adhere to the new Quarantine Policy,” BIAL said in the press release.
Passengers coming from red zone areas were shifted to institutional quarantine centres by the Karnataka government for seven days. After the mandatory thermal screening and checks, red zone passengers were taken to the the quarantine hotels in Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses. More than 10 BMTC buses and ten ambulances were stationed at the airport premises to shift the passengers to quarantine facilities in the various parts of the city.
The Karnataka government has issued Standard Operating Protocols (SOP) to put all domestic flight passengers from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh under seven-day institutional quarantine, which will be followed by home quarantine.
According to the SOP issued by the state health department, the returnees will be tested from 5th to 7th day in the institutional quarantine. After they test negative for the disease, they will be sent for home quarantine for another seven days. The SOP says that home quarantine is allowed for pregnant ladies, people above 80 years, patients with comorbidities and children below 10 years of age, along with one attendant after they test negative.
People coming for urgent work to Karnataka in flights will not be quarantined if they furnish a report from an ICMR-approved laboratory showing they tested negative for COVID-19, the health department said in the SOP.
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