The Union Health Ministry of Sunday issued travel guidelines for passengers taking the the air route to travel across states, a day before the country resumes its domestic flight services, barring a few states.
The Centre has decided to open up the skies for domestic passenger flights after a gap of two months and left the decision up to states to issue their own set of guidelines for their respective regions. This led to a confusion among the states as several of them were at odds with each other.
Many states like Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu opposed the decision of opening up their airports in view of rising Covid-19 cases, making it difficult for the airlines as well as the civil aviation ministry to resume services.
Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Sunday evening announced that all domestic flights will recommence across the country from Monday onward barring two states – Andhra Pradesh which will start on Tuesday, May 26 and West Bengal will begin on Thursday, May 28.
The Maharashtra government agreed for limited operations from Mumbai. However, for other airports in the state, flights will operate as in other parts of the country. Starting Monday, limited flights will depart from Mumbai airport and as per approved, one-third schedule from other airports in the state.
Limited operations to West Bengal will commence on May 28. As requested by the Andhra Pradesh government, operations in the state will recommence on limited scale from May 26. In Tamil Nadu, there will be maximum 25 arrivals in Chennai but there’s no limit on number of departures. For other airports in Tamil Nadu, flights will operate as in other parts of country.
It has been a long day of hard negotiations with various state govts to recommence civil aviation operations in the country.
Except Andhra Pradesh which will start on 26/5 & West Bengal on 28/5, domestic flights will recommence across the country from tomorrow.
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) May 24, 2020
Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam airports will also not operate any domestic flights on Monday, officials said. Services on these airports will begin from Tuesday, May 26.
Echoing similar sentiments, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she will urge the Centre to postpone the resumption of domestic flight services at Kolkata and Bagdogra airports by a few days. The state government on Friday had said that domestic flights will not resume in the state from Monday, adding that the state machinery was still involved in the relief and restoration work in the aftermath of super cyclone Amphan.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesperson on Sunday announced a list of standard operating procedure (SOP) for the movement of Indians stranded abroad and those stranded in India who are desirous to travel abroad. The guidelines issued by the ministry said that all stranded persons will have to register themselves with Indian Missions and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will prepare a flight/ship wise database of the travellers.
SOP for Movement of Indian Nationals stranded abroad & for those stranded in India desirous to travel abroad
●Stranded persons to register with Indian Missions
●MEA to prepare flight/ship wise database of travellers
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) May 24, 2020
However, the Ministry of Health along with a few other states issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) and guidelines to be followed by passengers boarding the flights resuming on Monday.
Some of the important guidelines issued by the health ministry include mandatory face masks thermal screening at all entry and exit points for all travellers. However, downloading the Aarogya Setu app on mobile phones have been made optional by the ministry, which added that only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the flight.
The GVK-led Mumbai International Airport on Sunday announced that it all set to welcome passengers on board starting Monday, May 25. To begin with, the airport will resume 50 flights on Monday – 25 departure flights and 25 for arrival. The announcement comes after a state minister gave nod to resume domestic flight services to and from Mumbai.
The guidelines for travel include contact-less payment methods for passengers and adopting eco-friendly methods, amongst others. Passengers above the age of 14 have to download the Aarogya Setu app on their phones. Those above 80 years as well as pregnant women and those undergoing any health issues will have to restrict travelling. All passengers arriving at the airport will be screened by the state government and expected to undergo home quarantine for 14 days.
The Delhi government’s guidelines for air travellers include no mandatory quarantine and asymptomatic flyers will be allowed to exit the airport with self monitor advice. Those with mild symptoms will be allowed to opt for either home isolation or government/private isolation facility, and will later be tested for Covid-19. Those found with moderate or severe symptoms of the coronavirus infections will be immediately admitted to the hospital.
Also, the Gautam Buddha Nagar police on Sunday said that people belonging to Noida and Greater Noida, travelling from other states, will not require a pass to cross the Delhi-Noida border. The passengers with a confirmed flight or train ticket will be allowed to cross the border by just showing their tickets to the police. All police personnel have been asked to ensure that those with a confirmed flight or train ticket should be permitted to travel to the airport or railway stations from the district.
The Karnataka government announced that all domestic air passengers would have to undergo a week-long institutional quarantine after arriving in the state from seven particular states, including Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu, where Covid-19 cases are high. The state government also issued an order deleting domestic air travel from the list of prohibited activities with effect from Monday and allowed unhindered movement of passengers, airport staff and the crew. The airport administration also said that it would ensure taxis, to be used by passengers, were sanitised and all taxi drivers weere screened before every trip to eliminate the chances of an infection. Face mask will be mandatory for both passengers and drivers for taxi travel. In addition to it, staff who manage taxi services at airport, including Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC), Ola, Uber and other car rental operators, will also be screened.
The Uttar Pradesh government announced that air travellers to the state will be sent on a 14-day home quarantine period unless their visit to the state is for less than a week or if they clear the coronavirus test. The state government said that passengers will have to follow the laid-down home quarantine protocol. However, they can get themselves tested on the sixth day from their arrival and end their quarantine if the results come out negative. All passengers travelling to UP have to register themselves on http://reg.upcovid.in and furnish details of themselves and family members travelling with them. All passengers will be advised to maintain social distancing, wear masks, wash hands and not gather under any circumstances.
The Tamil Nadu government on Sunday issued the standard operating procedure for incoming flights to the state. The guidelines include a 14-day home quarantine for all asymptomatic fliers, and institutional isolation for those without facilities for a home quarantine. The passengers will have to undergo screening of Covid-19 symptoms at the airport and if found symptomatic, they will undergo the test for Covid-19. All passengers will be be stamped with indelible ink on quarantine date before exiting the airport. The home isolation option has been extended for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms too. All air passengers have to pre-register themselves on the state’s specific portal for travel and obtain and the e-pass before boarding a flight. Passengers would be sent a travel permit with a QR Code which needs to be produced upon arrival at the airport.
The Punjab government ruled out that all passengers coming to the state have to go through a mandatory 14-day home quarantine. All passengers will be screened at the airport and those found symptomatic would be sent to institutional quarantine. Rapid testing teams would monitor the home quarantined people and the symptomatic passengers would be tested at hospitals and isolation centres.
Jammu and Kashmir
The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday announced that all inbound passengers would have to undergo a compulsory Covid-19 test and administrative quarantine till the time their report is declared. If the test result comes out to be negative, the passengers would be released for home quarantine and if found positive, they would be sent to Covid-19 hospital for treatment.
In its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for domestic air passengers, the Goa government said that all those arriving in Goa would have to undergo thermal screening upon their arrival. The passengers would also have to fill up a self declaration form. Those found symptomatic will be tested and sent to quarantine and those found asymptomatic would have to either give swab tests by spending Rs 2,000 and would have to stay in self isolation till the results come.
The Kerala government ruled that all domestic travellers coming to the state have to register themselves on the ‘COVID19 Jagratha’ portal in order to obtain a travel permit. The travel permit issued to them would have to be shown at the airport before the boarding passes are issued. In case more one person is travelling on a single ticket, then the details of all persons should be entered by them on the portal. Mandatory medical screening will be held for all at the airport and if passengers are found to be symptomatic, they would be sent to a Covid-19 care centre. The SOP also stated that all passengers can use private/rented vehicles to travel to their homes. If a person comes to receive a passenger and comes in physical contact with the passenger, he/she will also have to undergo a 14-day home quarantine.
The government of Assam, in its standard operating procedure (SOP), made it mandatory for all air travellers coming to Assam to stay in quarantine for 14 days. However, the pilot and crew members and other engineering staff of a flight will not be quarantined.
The Meghalaya government ordered that all passengers travelling to the state will be tested for Covid-19 and would have to undergo a 48-hour institutional quarantine.
The Chhattisgarh government issued the standard operating procedure (SOP) for medical screening and quarantining of people arriving in the state on domestic flights, starting Monday. Passengers are required to register themselves with the state portal. Facilitation centres for passengers will be set up at the Swami Vivekanand Airport. Health desks will be available in these facilitation centres, and passengers will be subjected to a medical check-up, including thermal screening. Symptomatic passengers will be admitted in the airport’s isolation kiosk and asymptomatic travellers would be placed in 14-day quarantine at government centres, homes or paid facilities. Passengers will also have to submit a written undertaking they will strictly follow isolation norms.
The Telangana government decided against home quarantine for incoming passengers to the state, starting Monday. The state government said that only those displaying symptoms at airports after screening will be taken to government centres. The rest will be asked to ‘self-monitor’ themselves.