Thursday, March 19, 2020

What awaits those flying in from coronavirus hotspots

New Delhi: Passengers flying into Delhi from the novel coronavirus hotspots abroad but not showing any symptoms of the infection may be “hand stamped” — like Maharashtra has been doing — to ensure they do not break the mandatory home quarantine. On Wednesday, the central government notified the standard operating procedure (SOP) for travellers landing at IGIA after a ruckus at the Terminal 3 arrivals on Monday morning over quarantine procedures.
After videos of agitated passengers at Terminal 3 went viral, the SOP was issued on Wednesday, just in time for the highest level of precautions kicking in — disallowing entry into India flying direct from Europe, UK and Malaysia, among others. In addition, anyone coming or transiting from UAE, including Dubai, Qatar and seven other countries needs to be quarantined for at least 14 days.

The flow chart of the disembarkation process, to be handled by joint teams of the airport, CISF, immigration, customs, Delhi government and other agencies, shows four steps.

Health screening on disembarkation: The airlines will escort passengers via dedicated aerobridges to counters manned by the Airport Health Organisation for initial thermal screening. The symptomatic passengers will be isolated and shifted to designated hospitals.

While the aviation ministry has been asked to stagger the arrival of flights from affected areas to ensure smooth disembarkation process, it is possible that people may fly in from virus hotspots in airlines of non-hotspot countries, creating some confusion and difficulties at IGIA.

Immigration: After the screening, asymptomatic passengers will head to designated immigration counters with a copy of the self-reporting form (SRF). Immigration officials will hand over batches of 30 cleared passengers to a five-member escort team, headed by a CISF officer and comprising representatives of DIAL, the airlines and Delhi Police.

The passports of the passengers will be retained by immigration officials and given to the CISF lead officer. The SOP stresses, “Passports shall not be handed over to passengers at any cost.” The 30 passengers will then collect their luggage and clear customs.

Control room: The escort team will move to a designated room manned by Delhi government officials and a batch number will be assigned to the 30 passengers.
Triage room: The escort head will hand over the passports of the 30 passengers to the medical officer in-charge at the counter. The passengers will all be screened at the five screening counters manned by medical officers and paramedical staff deputed by Delhi government.
19/03/20 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India
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