International Flights Could Start Even By Middle June: Aviation Minister

Mr Puri was responding to concerns that air passengers travelling during the COVID-19 lockdown may not need to go into quarantine on arriving at their destination

Agencies

New Delhi: 

International flight operations could start by the middle of June or end of July, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Saturday, so long as the COVID-19 virus behaves in a “predictable manner”. 

“Why wait till August-Sept? If situation eases or improves – if virus behaves in predictable manner, we get used to idea of being able to co-exist with it&we’re in position to make arrangements-why not start by June middle or end July?”, Mr Puri asked  during an online discussion with the public to clarify norms governing resumption of domestic flights from Monday.

Mr Puri also said there was no need to quarantine domestic air passengers who show “green” status on the Aarogya Setu app. He made a similar point during a press briefing on Thursday, during which he revealed details of revised flight operations, including air fares and the seven categories of routes.

“Don’t understand the need for quarantine of passenger who has green status on Aarogya Setu app,” Mr Puri said in his virtual meeting.

Mr Puri was responding to concerns that air passengers travelling during the COVID-19 lockdown may not need to go into quarantine or isolation on arriving at their destination.

Following his statement, as many as six states, including Kerala, Karnataka and Assam, insisted that people arriving via domestic flights will have to be quarantined.

This morning Karnataka said incoming passengers from six states with the most infections will have to undergo seven-day institutional quarantine and seven days of home isolation. Exemptions will be made for the elderly, the terminally-ill, children and pregnant women.

On Friday, Tamil Nadu urged the centre to rethink the reopening of air travel, citing a surge in coronavirus cases in state capital Chennai and non-functioning public transport, which will trouble passengers commuting between the airport and the city – a distance of around 10 kilometres.

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Chennai airport has been closed for passenger traffic, as have all others in the country, since the COVID-19 lockdown began

On Thursday Mr Puri said an unnecessary “fuss” was being made over quarantine of domestic air passengers.

He pointed out that as per revised SOPs governing air travel during the lockdown, those showing “red” on the Aarogya Setu app, which he promoted as an “excellent contact-tracing device”, would not even be allowed to enter the airport, let alone board a plane.

“I don’t know why we are making such a fuss on the quarantine issue. Bhai, this is domestic travel. Same laws will apply here that applies when you travel by train or a bus… People who are positive will not be allowed to board the flights,” he said.

All flight operations were stopped in March after a nationwide lockdown was ordered to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On Wednesday Mr Puri said these would be re-started in a “calibrated” manner.

Resumption of domestic flights comes as the country experiences a worrying surge in fresh COVID-19 cases – nearly 25,000 have been recorded over the past four days, with 6,654 reported over the past 24 hours, according to government data this morning.

The total number of cases in India has crossed 1.25 lakh, with 3,720 deaths reported.

The Railways has already moved to gradually restart services; it has been running trains for migrants since May 1, as well as 15 special passenger trains starting from New Delhi.

Starting June 1, 200 regular passenger trains will also begin operating. Passengers will also have to show “green” on the Aarogya Setu app before travelling, and will have to spend 14 days in isolation on arrival.

 

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