Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Six hours of wait: Even if you are Covid negative, you are likely to acquire it at airport, says Biocon founder

Biocon executive chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw on Wednesday said passengers are likely to get the Covid-19 infection due to long hours of wait at airports after arrival.

"Day 1 Of Omicron Travel Rules, Upto 6 Hours Wait For Tests: 10 Points - Even if you did not have the infection you are likely to acquire it at the airport!," Shaw tweeted after new travel regulations, both from the union health ministry and States kicked in on December 1.

On Tuesday, she had requested governments not to harass passengers at airports in the name of heightened regulations as some states are adding their own layers of regulations over and above what the Union Health Ministry has notified which have taken effect from today (December 1).

The existing travel restrictions are adequate as anyone testing positive is going to be quarantined and tracked, she had told ET.

“I don’t think you should be harassing passengers who’ve tested negative and subjecting them to more quarantine. I think we should tell any returning traveller that if they have any symptoms they should report it, but harassing them with quarantine is not correct,” she said.

Karnataka requires all international passengers arriving at Bengaluru and other airports in the state to be tested for Covid-19 in view of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant across many countries. Even those testing negative have to be under compulsory home quarantine for seven days and re-test themselves on the eighty day. The neighbouring Maharashtra has gone a step ahead and requires all inter-state travellers to produce RT-PCR negative reports.

The union health ministry’s guidelines, on the other hand, require only passengers from at-risk countries to undergo testing on arrival. Others can go home but stay in quarantine and re-test on the eighth day. As for those arriving from other countries, they have to self-monitor for two weeks. The guideline, which takes effect from December 1, however, requires authorities to subject 5% of all international passengers to random testing on arrival. All passengers, however, must upload a negative RT-PCR report before boarding the flight.

Shaw said: “I think we’re just overreacting to a new variant. I don’t think there is any evidence to show that vaccinated people are at risk of severe disease. All we know is it might be more transmissible, that we can agree. But I don’t think travel restrictions are going to prevent the viral spread. That’s the whole thing. Today even though South Africa might have reported it, it’s already present in Europe, so we don’t know the origins of this variant.”

She added: “If vaccines are eliciting only mild responses even if you are reinfected, I don’t think we should be worrying about it,” she said, and added: “I think we’re just becoming paranoid and having these kinds of drastic reactions. We’re going to keep getting new variants, and with each of them are you going to have a travel ban? I think you need to face this pandemic with vaccination, and track severity and mortality and not just reinfections.”

01/12/21 K R Balasubramanyam/Economic Times

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