Thursday, December 02, 2021

Different travel guidelines from Centre and states leave fliers, airline officials stranded

The new different guidelines for flyers by Maharashtra and Karnataka repeat the Centre-state inconsistencies seen during the second wave of Covid-19 and will create confusion among passengers, senior executives at airlines and travel companies have said.

Given rising concerns about the new highly infectious Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Centre has come up with new rules for international flyers coming into India. Under these rules, people coming from “at risk” countries must upload a Covid-negative test result and travel plans for 14 days on the government’s Air Suvidha portal, besides getting a second RT-PCR test done on arrival.

But that would not be enough for those landing in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The Maharashtra government’s new set of rules includes one-week mandatory institutional quarantine for passengers flying in from “at risk” countries while the Karnataka government has mandated a seven-day home quarantine for flyers from those countries even if they have tested negative. The at risk countries include U.K., South Africa,China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

Meanwhile, the Centre has written to states to not come up with divergent guidelines. But it’s not clear yet if the states will roll back their guidelines.

“This inconsistency in guidelines doesn't help anyone, least of all the passengers,” said Rajesh Magow, group CEO of travel portal Makemytrip. “While intent is to be careful to keep people safe, it would be great if there is better coordination between the authorities to keep the protocol procedures simple and consistent for customers,” he said.

A senior executive at an airline who requested not to be identified said, “Clearly there have been few lessons learnt from the abject confusion created by divergent rules and guidelines in the second wave.”

Several passengers are already in flight even as the rules set in, he said. “How will they get an RT PCR test?”

Another airline executive said domestic and international passengers have started cancelling flights and bookings have softened. “This when our demand was reaching close to 90% of pre-Covid levels,” he said.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson of leading biopharmaceutical company Biocon, tweeted, “The seven day home quarantine for negative tests is an overkill. Please understand that vaccinations will safeguard people, not travel restrictions.”

The Maharashtra government’s new set of rules also includes mandatory RT-PCR tests for all domestic passengers including those vaccinated. This, too, has upset the travel industry.

“Since all sincere efforts are being made to prevent the new variant enter the country, domestic travel should be spared from new restrictions,” said Magow of Makemytrip. “Some states have made negative RTPCR mandatory for travellers coming from other states. This may not be necessary for vaccinated people at least for now when Covid-19 in India is under control even after the recent festivities,” he said.

02/12/21 Anirban Chowdhury & Anumeha Chaturvedi/Economic Times


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