“Must Be Pragmatic”: Aviation Minister On Quarantine For Air Passengers

Coronavirus: Domestic flight operations will resume from Monday, the government has said

New Delhi:

Quarantine of passengers on domestic flights will have to be dealt with in a “pragmatic manner” and the government feels such measures are not required for short-haul domestic flights, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said today, while discussing norms to be followed by airlines and passengers for the resumption of domestic flights from Monday.

Mr Puri also revealed details about fares (a minimum and maximum fare for each sector will be fixed for three months) and said flights would be divided into seven categories based on flying time. However, it was his comments of air passengers on arrival that left a few puzzled faces.

“The quarantine issue will be dealt with in a pragmatic manner. For instance, if I go to Kerala, then I will have to be in quarantine for 14 days. When I come back, will I be sent to quarantine again for 14 days? This is not practical,” Hardeep Singh Puri said.

“Quarantine standards for buses and trains (passengers on both services must undergo 14-day quarantine on arrival at their destinations) cannot be applied to civil aviation,” he added, pointing out that under revised SOPs symptomatic passengers will not be allowed to travel at all.

“In case you test positive, then you will not even be permitted to enter the airport or board flights,” Mr Puri said, also asking passengers to take “a conscious decision to see if they are fit to travel”.

Mr Puri had earlier said the government was of the opinion that passengers on short-haul flights need not go into quarantine, but those coming off long-haul flights would have to undergo the mandatory 14-day isolation period to ensure they were not carrying the COVID-19 virus.

As airlines prepare to resume operations after a nearly two-month lockdown, flights have been divided into seven categories based on time in the air – 0-30 minutes, 30-60 minutes, 60-90 minutes, 90-120 minutes, 120-150 minutes, 150-180 minutes, and 180-210 minutes.

Airlines will have to follow ticket price guidelines issued by the ministry, the government said.

On Thursday morning the Civil Aviation Ministry released an exhaustive list of guidelines for passengers, including web check-ins, mandatory social distancing and thermal screening, the use of protective gear throughout the journey and displaying “green” status on the Aarogya Setu app.

Those found with COVID-19 symptoms or showing “red” on the government’s contact-tracing app will not be allowed to enter the airport terminal or board flights, the Ministry said.

Passengers coming from containment areas of “red” zones will also not be allowed to enter the airport or board flights, the ministry’s statement added.

The “calibrated” re-opening of air travel in the country comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past two 24-hour periods; over 5,600 cases were reported on Wednesday and Thursday morning, Health Ministry data showed.

The total number of cases in the country has crossed 1.12 lakh, with 3,435 deaths linked to the virus.

The infections are largely concentrated in metro cities, with Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad the three worst-hit.

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