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Govt pushes back December 15 start for international flights, new date later

🔴 On Friday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had announced that international scheduled commercial flights would resume from December 15 after a 21-month ban. At the time, the ministry had said the decision was taken in consultation with the ministries of health, external affairs and home affairs.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
Updated: December 2, 2021 7:12:53 am
A senior government official confirmed that, as of now, the effective date of resumption was being kept “in abeyance” and a new date would be notified in due course.

THE CENTRE on Wednesday decided not to resume scheduled international flights from December 15, less than a week after announcing the date, in the wake of rising concerns over the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron. A senior government official confirmed that, as of now, the effective date of resumption was being kept “in abeyance” and a new date would be notified in due course.

“In view of the evolving global scenario with the emergence of new variants of concern, the situation is being watched closely in consultation with all stakeholders and an appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services shall be notified in due course,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in an order Wednesday.

On Friday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had announced that international scheduled commercial flights would resume from December 15 after a 21-month ban. At the time, the ministry had said the decision was taken in consultation with the ministries of health, external affairs and home affairs.

Following the announcement last week, at a review meeting on Covid-19 preparedness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked government officials to review the plans for easing of international travel restrictions in the light of growing concerns regarding the new Covid variant first detected in South Africa. After this, a meeting chaired by the home secretary on Sunday decided that the date would be reviewed as per the evolving global scenario.

The resumption of flights was to happen in a calibrated manner with a staggered reopening for countries considered “at-risk”. These include Europe, including the UK, in addition to South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. For countries with which India has an air bubble arrangement, flights were to be resumed at 75% capacity, as decided in bilateral agreements; for others, flights were to operate at 50% capacity. For countries that were not listed as “at-risk”, 100% of the flights were to be allowed to resume.

A number of countries are restricting travel from southern African countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, etc in addition to curtailing travel from other countries where the new variant has been detected. Starting Monday, the US started to prohibit travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Similarly, Canada, the UK and several EU countries have also introduced restrictions for travellers from South Africa and its neighbouring countries. Some countries like Japan have decided to completely shut down international air travel, and even asked airlines to not take forward bookings from international passengers.

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