New covid-19 variant: Globally speaking, there is a growing concern about the new Omicron variant. Many countries have jumped to action and restricted their air travel rules. Needless to say, India isn’t behind. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged the country to take caution against the new variant before he commenced the Winter Session of Parliament on Monday. The states have followed suit since the PM chaired a review meeting on the weekend amid concerns about Omicron.
The Centre has primarily asked states to focus on testing and screening at the airports. With the possible threat of Omicron, the Delhi international airport has already made arrangements to accommodate up to 1,500 international passengers, including those coming from the countries where cases of the new variant have been detected. Each passenger will have to undergo the RT-PCR test and will be charged around Rs 1,700 for the tests. The amount will include charges for the RT-PCR test, basic food and water facility during their stay at the airport till the test results come, the airport officials stated on Tuesday.
The international airports across the country will be implementing stricter covid guidelines for the international passengers to be effective from midnight. The move is taken amid the rising concerns of infections caused by the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. The guidelines state that all the passengers coming from ‘at-risk’ countries have to mandatorily undergo RT-PCR tests. The five per cent of passengers coming from other countries will also be tested on a random basis. The passengers will be allowed to leave the airport only once the results of the test are declared. The arrangements have already been made at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in the national capital in order to implement the new guidelines and ensure proper social distancing among passengers.
As per the official notification, the airport holds the capacity to accomodate 1,400-1,500 passengers at a time, including those coming from ‘at-risk’ countries. Passengers will have to spend at least six hours at the premises, including waiting for the RT-PCR test results. At the IGIA, the country’s largest airport operated by the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), international operations are from Terminal 3 (T3), as reported by the PTI.
According to the officials, the testing facility at the airport can take 400-500 samples in one hour and one test result is expected in four hours or more. All AAI airports that have international operations are “fully prepared” to implement the guidelines issued by the Union government in coordination with state authorities, said a spokesperson from Airports Authority of India (AAI). The top management of the AAI is also monitoring the whole situation carefully, the spokesperson added. State-owned AAI is involved in operations of at least 34 international airports, including customs airports. There is however no immediate comments from Mumbai airport on the preparations to implement the guidelines amid new covid variant concerns.
Though India has not reported Omicron cases so far, the Union government had issued an advisory to ramp up early testing for any cases. There will also be effective surveillance of international passengers. “As per updated list on November 26, the countries designated as ‘at-risk’ include European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Israel and Hong Kong”, reported PTI.
A GMR spokesperson on Monday confirmed all necessary arrangements will be made on time keeping in mind the fresh guidelines and passenger convenience. “We have made similar arrangements earlier as well during previous waves of the pandemic. We will ensure adherence to COVID-19 protocol during the stay of passengers inside the terminal,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying to the PTI.