Airlines had told aviation ministry that this rule could lead to a shortage of crew for operating domestic flights, which were allowed to resume from March 25, and the latter, in turn, raised this issue with the heath ministry.
Now, health authorities have dropped the 14-day home quarantine requirement for crew after concluding that there is “minimal” risk of the flu transmitting from an infected passenger to crew as the latter are using full personal protection equipment (PPE). Further, with no onboard service on flights, the crew-passenger interaction is also very low reducing the risk of transmission of infection. Airlines have been asked to do their own risk assessment and accordingly formulate policies for crew of flights on which a flyer/crew member tested positive.
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Health ministry joint secretary Alok Saxena on Friday replied to his aviation ministry counterpart Rubina Ali, who had earlier raised the issue of “difficulties being faced by crew members of airlines in wake of resumption of domestic operations (and that) significant number of crew members across all airlines may become non-operational due to quarantine rules.”
Saxena’s letter says the health ministry examined it. “Based on expert opinion, (it has been noted) airline crew are wearing full PPE (including N96 mask) during fight. Further, crew is also not serving any food/snacks to passengers. In addition to this, all passengers have to undergo mandatory screening and have to wear masks throughout the light. Hence, the possible risk of crew getting infection from any suspect passenger is minimal.”
“Therefore, it is advised that risk assessment for the crew be done by airlines’ doctor and should be advised for testing as per ICMR guidelines. The concern regarding 14-days home quarantine should be assessed during the risk assessment and it should be advised to such crews who have the history of contact with a COVID -19 case during the fight operations. Such information should be shared by the airlines with concerned Airport Health Organisation for coordinating with state governments. Further, all crew members must be advised to download Arogya Setu app and monitor their health through the same,” Saxena’s letter adds.