Saturday, January 09, 2021

UK air arrivals stranded as Delhi orders quarantine without notice

A DAY after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the Centre to extend its ban on all flights from the UK, his government announced stringent conditions for passengers arriving from that country, including seven days of institutional quarantine even if they test negative at the airport.

However, the decision, which was announced in an order issued Friday, took the nearly 250 passengers who arrived on an Air India flight (AI 112) in the morning by surprise as they were bunched in groups to be taken to two hotels in Aerocity — JW Marriot and Aloft — for institutional quarantine.

Till 9 pm, official sources told The Indian Express, about 150 of them had been tested, with one positive case reported.

When the flight took off from London at about 9.40 pm Thursday local time, the prevalent rules in Delhi allowed for arriving passengers to exit the airport after testing negative. AI 112 was the first flight from London following partial resumption of India-UK flights after the Centre temporarily suspended arrivals to prevent the spread of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus in that country.

However, a relative of one of the affected passengers said, “there was chaos” on landing at 10:30 am as none of the passengers was prepared for institutional quarantine.

Gouri Shankar Das, who was on the flight, tweeted from the airport: “… I am one of the passengers of flight AI112 from London with my 4.5 months old daughter…There is no food for my daughter & they didn’t let me get my stroller…”

Another passenger Harprit Takkar tweeted videos of the chaos at Delhi airport. “Just came from London AI112, it’s absolutely manic at Delhi Airport. Asking us to go for institutional quarantine even with Negative PCR test. Didn’t mention this on your SOP,” he posted.

At 7.26 pm, Air India posted on Twitter: “Air India had reached out to passengers of the London-Delhi flight, before the flight took off from Heathrow Airport at 2139 hrs last night. Around 20 passengers opted to cancel their flight on being informed by Air India London team of this advisory. The announcement was repeated during the flight as well. Air India had mobilised all available resources to expedite the RT-PCR tests for passengers of this flight arriving from London and extend every possible support to facilitate them.”

The new order issued by Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev stated that “as a matter of abundant precaution, in view of the increased transmissibility of the new variant, it is decided that all travellers coming from United Kingdom (UK) to India, would be mandatorily subjected to RT-PCR tests on arrival at the airport”.

“Those who are found positive shall be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit as per existing laid down protocol. Those who are found negative shall be kept in compulsory institutional quarantine for a period of seven days followed by seven days of home quarantine,” it said.

09/01/21 Pranav Mukul/Ashna Butani/Indian Express

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