Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Flyers from Dubai, other transit hubs still not under corona lens

Mumbai: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday extended medical screening for coronavirus (Covid-19) to passengers on flights arriving from Italy and Iran besides those on flights from airports in East Asia. But for India, the proverbial elephant in the room are airports in West Asia, which are the most popular transit hubs for passengers flying into India. It’s there that India-bound passengers from airports in Europe, the US, and Africa would possibly mingle with those who have flown in from Iran and Italy before they board their onward connection.

“For India, it’s critical to look into the possibility of India-bound passengers getting infected in transit hubs. A passenger typically spends at least 2-3 hours milling around with hundreds of other passengers, including those who have flown in from Iran and Italy,” said a senior airline official.
For instance, eight direct flights from Tehran fly into Dubai daily, apart from six in total from Rome, Milan and Venice, bringing in over 3,000 passengers daily from these destinations into Dubai. Again, 17 daily flights link Dubai to Mumbai, the busiest international route into India. Apart from these, 12 flights from Dubai fly to Delhi, seven to Kochi, and six to Hyderabad daily.

“Dubai airport gets the largest number of passengers from India. In 2019, 11.9 million passengers from India landed at Dubai and so, an equally large number would be flying out of Dubai to India,” said an aviation consultant. There are other West Asian airports like Doha, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and Riyadh where si-milar intermingling of India-bound passengers with those from Iran and Italy occur.
The big problem with extending screening to passengers coming in from West Asian airports pertains to sheer volume. “It would greatly increase the workload of airport health organisations as the number of passengers to be screened would jump manifold. It would decrease the efficiency of detection as human factors like fatigue would set in. From Dubai alone, about 8,000-9,000 passengers would be flying into Mumbai,” said a medical practitioner with an airline.
04/03/20 Manju V/Times of India

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