Two travel agents’ organisations have urged the West Bengal government to reconsider the decision to suspend passenger flights to Kolkata from six cities with a high number of Covid-19 cases.
The ban on the arrival of flights to Kolkata airport from Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Nagpur and Ahmedabad was first imposed for a period of 14 days from July 6. It was initially extended till July 31 and then subsequently to August 15. The restriction was further extended till August 31.
Chairman of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) of Eastern Region Manav Soni wrote to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to reconsider the decision on flight embargo, while Chairman of Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) of Eastern Region Anil Panjabi wrote to Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay.
In the letter to the Home Secretary, dated August 10, the association asked the government to reconsider the flight suspension decision so that the residents from West Bengal who are stranded in these cities and also those who travel due to business purposes can avail these direct services.
The letter to the CM read, “We need your support towards restarting, restructuring and restoring travel and tourism Industry.”
Panjabi on Thursday said, “During this pandemic, the tourism industry has incurred one of the heaviest losses. So, to increase revenue and boost the industry, we need the government’s support and guidance. To check Covid spread, the government may impose strict Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for passengers coming from those six cities. Passengers may be asked to undergo Rapid Antigen Test on arrival at the airport and should stay at institutional quarantine till the results are available.”
TAAI, in their letter also suggested that an elaborate SOP could be adopted to address the problem. It wrote in the letter, “As a safety measure, Kolkata Airport can introduce Rapid Antigen Test that gives instant result for Covid-19 infection… If any passenger does not opt for the test, then that person will have to remain in 14-day home quarantine. The health department counter will issue quarantine paper and copy of which will be given to local municipal corporations or panchayat offices and police station for intimation and close monitoring purpose.”
The letter added, “Symptomatic passengers will have to undergo institutional quarantine process. For passengers entering West Bengal, e-pass will be better option than any mobile app, which a lot of passengers are unable to operate. A simple module in the state government website to generate e-pass will be more effective to keep a track on all incoming passengers. This e-pass will also help them travel inside the state for business and travel purposes.”
However, sources said the government had no plan to revoke the flight ban decision immediately.
A senior state government official said, “It is very difficult to revoke the decision immediately as these cities are still hotspots.”
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