'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.

“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 be allowed to resume about a third of their operations, to be divided between the above seven categories according to their resources and requirements. They will also 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 11,000 cases have been reported over the past 48 hours, Union Health Ministry data showed this morning.

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

Amid fears over the virus spreading further than it already has, the Railways has already moved to gradually restart its services; it has been running trains for stranded migrant workers since May 1, as well as 15 special passenger trains starting from and returning to New Delhi.

Starting June 1, 200 regular passenger trains will also begin operating, the Railways Ministry said on Wednesday.

Passengers on trains will also have to undergo thermal screening on arrival at the station, must maintain social distance and wear face masks, and must show “green” on the Aarogya Setu app.

They will also have to spend 14 days in isolation on arrival at their destination, the Railways ruled, with exceptions made for elderly people, children and pregnant women.