Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Airlines pin hopes on jab certification as ‘ticket to fly’

Kolkata: The airport operator, airlines and the travel trade fraternity have their hopes pinned on the government’s proposal for unfettered travel for fully vaccinated individuals to revive the industry that has crash-landed following restrictions imposed by various state governments to control the surge in Covid cases in the second wave.

At present, several states have made it mandatory for fliers coming in from places with high infection numbers to undergo RT-PCR test before travel and fly only if they test negative. Bengal and some other states have imposed the condition on all travellers from outside the state, pushing down the daily passenger count to 4,000-5,000 from 20,000-25,000 a month ago. What has added to the problem is the varying conditions for the test set by different governments. For instance, Pune and Aurangabad in Maharashtra and Port Blair in Andaman & Nicobar Islands demand an RT-PCR test done not more than 48 hours before flying, while most other states allow it within 72 hours.

“The RT-PCR test demand has affected air travel big time as getting reports within 24-36 hours is still a challenge in many cities. The priority in testing facilities is for those suspected to have contracted the virus, rather than travellers. If fully vaccinated people are allowed to travel without testing, it will not only resolve a major hassle, it will also drive people to get vaccinated at the earliest,” an airline official pointed out.

Travel agents believe the timing was just right to push through the proposal and get all state governments on board as new as well as active Covid cases have declined significantly. Pointing out that states could still veto such a proposal as health was a state subject, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said a joint team from several ministries and stakeholders, including the health department, were currently in discussion to take a final decision on allowing travelling by air without an RT-PCR test for fully vaccinated people. “This will be a shot in the arm for the domestic tourism industry,” said Travel Agents’ Association of India chairman (east) Manav Soni.

08/06/21 Times of India

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