Friday, December 04, 2020

At Mumbai airport, passengers wait in long queues for RT-PCR tests

Mumbai: With scant manpower and limited Covid-19 testing kiosks, passengers landing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) in Mumbai on Thursday had to wait for several hours in long queues to get their RT-PCR tests done.

Ranjit Kaur Virk, who flew in from Kandla in Gujarat, had to wait for over six hours to get herself tested. “I landed at Mumbai around 5 pm and had to wait until 11 pm for my RT-PCR test,” she said.

Officials at the airport asked those who had already undergone a test to show their reports and leave. Many, who did not have a test report, were asked to stand in line for the RT-PCR tests being conducted at kiosks near the baggage collection belts.

The passengers were asked to first register online, make online payment for the test and then wait with their token numbers. “It took a long time to register online,” Virk said.

CSMIA officials could not be reached for a comment.

On November 23, the Maharashtra government had issued directions that passengers from Goa, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Delhi have to be tested for Covid-19 on arrival. While for those arriving at the airport, the report of a test conducted within 72 hours before arrival is mandated, those coming by train get a 96-hour window.

Those with no report have to be tested at the station or airport before they can go home. Soon after the order was issued, the airport authorities had raised concerns regarding the lack of manpower to conduct the entire process.

On Thursday, as the crowd increased at the airport, the waiting period increased to several hours. For an RT-PCR test, considered the gold standard for Covid-19 diagnosis, samples from nose and throat are collected. But of the five kiosks set up by Suburban Diagnostics for testing, only one was operational by night. Passengers were found fighting with security staff to proceed towards the exit after waiting for five to seven hours.

In a letter dated November 23, BMC had written to the Airports Authority of India and the Mumbai international airport CEO that “only after taking the test, the passengers will be allowed to go home…” The letter added that the responsibility of arranging testing centres falls on airports and passengers can be charged directly for the tests.

04/12/20 Indian Express

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