Wednesday, October 14, 2020

‘Ready to set up rapid test unit at airport ’

Kolkata: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said the state is ready to provide a facility for Covid rapid antigen tests at the airport like the ones already operational in Delhi and Mumbai airports if the civil aviation ministry makes the Kolkata-London flight a permanent one.

“Kolkata is a gateway of north east, as well as states like Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar. A large population wants to travel to Europe from here. We want direct flight operations to increase further and the direct flight to London be made permanent. The former chief secretary had written to civil aviation ministry regarding the matter and I have directed the current chief secretary to write to them again,” the chief minister said.

Sources said Rajiva Sinha had prior to retirement written to the ministry, requesting for another direct flight from Kolkata to continental Europe. The London flight was initially proposed to be operated till October 24 has since been extended till the year-end and then March 31, 2021. This is the first direct connection between the city and a country in Europe since Lufthansa withdrew its flight eight years ago. The last direct flight to London was operated by British Airways 11 years ago.

The Kolkata-London Air India flight has been plagued by poor loads due to a combination of factors, including the need to get Covid-test done within 96 hours prior to the flight departure. The Bengal government currently allows only passengers who have tested Covid negative to fly in from abroad. That is a major constraint due to the high cost of Covid test in London. Air India is also unable to operate a flight between Singapore and Kolkata because Covid testing is controlled in the country.

14/10/20 Tamaghna Banerjee/Times of India

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