As the country records over 20 cases of Omicron in just three days while several COVID-19-positive samples undergo genome testing, as many as 50 per cent people want the central government to suspend all Vande Bharat flights coming from countries where 20 or more Omicron cases have been detected, according to a survey.
The survey was done by online platform LocalCircles and received over 18,000 responses from citizens residing in 317 districts of the country.
It was conducted to understand the approach that people want the government to take on international flight restrictions and also to strengthen the quarantine process so that the risk of Omicron spread is minimised, according to a statement.
The survey showed that 84 per cent of the respondents want district officials to regularly inspect or location-track individuals coming on international flights and ensure that they are undergoing home quarantine, according to the statement.
People want the government to streamline the home quarantine process by effectively tracking and tracing these individuals such that the risk of Omicron spread through them is reduced, it said.
The scheduled commercial international passenger flight services to and from India remain suspended for nearly 21 months now due to the pandemic.
To facilitate international air travel, the government has allowed operations of flight services in a limited manner under the Vande Bharat Mission and air bubble pacts with various governments.
Currently, India has air bubble agreements with as many as 31 countries — from Afghanistan and Bangladesh to Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UAE, the UK and the US, among others.
Reports from several states suggest that international travellers have either become non-traceable after exiting from the airport or allegedly deliberately given the wrong contact information about themselves, it said.
The risk is that if these travellers start going out, meeting others and visiting tourist destinations, they are likely to infect many more, LocalCircles said in the release.
“The need of the hour, according to the people, is for the government to ensure that a traveller arriving from an ‘at-risk’ country must validate their phone number or e-mail address to be approved for home quarantine via an OTP and if the same does not happen, the traveller should be put in mandatory institutional quarantine,” Sachin Taparia, founder of LocalCircles, said.
People also suggested that location tracking of the travellers must be done via WhatsApp or Arogya Setu or some other mechanism such that they maintain the home quarantine discipline, Taparia added.
Also, the transfer of information of travellers sent by airport authorities to the district administration must be done in real-time, said LocalCircles.
It added that the findings in the survey indicate that people want timely action on these two recommendations, helpful in isolating Omicron cases and slowing its spread and possibly averting the third wave.