International passengers who have a connecting flight via Delhi will soon have the option of getting an RT-PCR test for Covid-19 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The service will begin in the middle of this month, a Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) official said.
In collaboration with Genestrings Diagnostic Centre, a laboratory based in the capital, DIAL has set up a “lab” sprawled over an area of 3,500 sq m on the fourth floor of the multilevel parking at Delhi Airport’s Terminal 3.
However, there is no such provision for those whose destination city is Delhi itself, said the official. “If a transfer passenger travelling from abroad does not for some reason have a Covid-19 negative report, they can get themselves tested at the airport,” the DIAL official said. The result will be available within a few hours, the official said.
“The passenger can either wait in the waiting lounge for four-six hours for the report, or at a hotel in the vicinity. A strict policy of social distancing will be maintained in the lounge,” the official said.
Testing protocol and how it changes now
currently, international passengers can get a Covid test done 96 hours before the journey and apply for exemption on the Air Suvidha portal. If not, as per protocol, they are required to undergo seven days of mandatory institutional quarantine at the city they alight in, before they can head to their destination city. With the new facility, those getting a negative test result at IGI Airport can skip quarantine and continue their journey.
Friday’s announcement comes two days after the Civil Aviation Ministry said international passengers with connecting flights can avail of testing facilities at airports before travelling onward to their final destination. IGI is the first airport to announce the measure. “This is to boost international operations. We have no plans of doing this with passengers of domestic flights, as each state and Union Territory has its own protocol,” the DIAL official said.
The official said any passenger who tests positive “will be processed in line with applicable ICMR protocols by the state authorities”. The official also told The Indian Express that “international passengers who want to avail of this service at Delhi Airport will be discouraged from booking connecting flights”.
This, the official said, is because “the wait for the result is four-six hours — and so a connecting flight, if at all one is booked, should be booked with a gap of eight hours”.
The “ideal scenario”, the official said, should be “that the passenger books a connecting flight after the result at the Delhi Airport comes negative”.
DIAL CEO Videh Kumar Jaipuriar said: “The pilot initiative has been taken to ensure testing of all arriving international transfer passengers scheduled to board a domestic connecting flight post arrival in Delhi Airport.”
Dr Rajat Arora of Genestrings said: “As India enters a crucial stage of further relaxing international borders, it is imperative that a comprehensive strategy is put in place.”
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