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Omicron In India And Air Travel: Here’s What You Need To Know

Amid concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Centre had issued revised guidelines for international travelers which came into effect on December 1

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At the Delhi airport, rapid PCR test costs a passenger Rs 3,500 but the results come in 60-90 minutes
At the Delhi airport, rapid PCR test costs a passenger Rs 3,500 but the results come in 60-90 minutes

New Delhi: The number of Omicron cases in India now stands at 21, as it has more than doubled in a day. Keeping the Omicron Covid variant in view, the Airports Authority of India has shared a detailed set of state-wise guidelines for quarantine norms and regulations to be undertaken by flyers. Is that enough to keep us all collectively safe and contain the spread of the new variant of the Coronavirus? Or is this a situation where policies are many but its implementation is lacking?

Amid concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Centre had issued a revised guideline for international travellers which came into effect on December 1.

According to the Union Health Ministry’s guidelines issued on November 30, all passengers coming from “at-risk” countries have to compulsorily undergo RT-PCR test and two per cent of passengers arriving from other countries would also have to take the test on a random basis.

Also Read: Next Pandemic Could Be More Lethal Than COVID, Vaccine Creator Says

The passengers will have to wait for the results before leaving the airport or taking a connecting flight, according to the guidelines.

Countries in Europe, including the UK, and South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel have been placed in the “at-risk” category by the Union Health Ministry.

At the Delhi airport, rapid PCR test costs a passenger Rs 3,500 but the results come in 60-90 minutes. RT-PCR costs a passenger Rs 500 and the results come in around six hours.

A passenger coming from an “at-risk” country can choose either of the tests at the Delhi airport.

However, according to international passengers, chaos is reigning at the international airports where passengers are lining up for COVID tests, results are delayed and testing centres are blaming the huge volume of passengers. An anonymous passenger tells NDTV that airports seem to be the new COVID Hotpot, with a huge number of travellers and no social distancing.

On arrival, we need to produce our vaccination certificate, following which we need to undergo Covid tests. We can choose either Rapid PCR or RT-PCR. The sitting arrangement for passengers waiting for their test results is not satisfactory. I had to stand for over one hour as I waited for the results of my Rapid PCR test, a passenger told NDTV.

Also Read: Omicron Variant Does Not Escape RT-PCR And RAT, Centre Tells States As It Asks Them To Ramp Up Testing

A Delhi airport authority official explained the arrangements at the airport.

We have made sitting arrangements for 1,400 people keeping in mind Covid protocols. Currency exchange counters have been opened up to help those who have difficulty paying by card. Please note that Delhi airport is the first in the country to have a dedicated lab. Multiple counters have been opened for tests.

Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Monday directed Delhi airport operator DIAL to implement better crowd management strategies after passengers complained of chaos and crowding at its terminal following the implementation of new coronavirus-related travel guidelines, senior government officials said.

The minister called a meeting with officials of the Airports Authority of India, Bureau of Immigration and GMR group-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL). Officials of Genestrings Diagnostics, the sole laboratory that does RT-PCR testing at the Delhi airport, were also present at the meeting. At the meeting, the minister directed the DIAL to implement better crowd management strategies, officials stated.

Also Read: Explained: What Are The Symptoms Of Omicron, A Variant Of Concern

Dr Rajinder K Jhamija, Senior Neurologist and WHO Fellow at the National Institute of Epidemiology, says that the pandemic has a well-defined trajectory and we need to keep that in mind. He explains,

We need to understand that the pandemic has a set trajectory. It always comes in bigger cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai because of the international travel through these cities. The virus then spreads through these metropolitan cities to Tier 2 cities and smaller towns. This trajectory must be kept in the mind by policymakers, as they understand the issue and take action. The standard operating procedure needs to be followed while travelling.

Vimal Kumar Rai, Aviation Expert and Founder, Trace Consulting Services, tells NDTV that it feels like we are back by 12 months in terms of the uncertainties. He said,

We were all looking forward to travelling restarting and people have started going back to normal. But this is a gradual shift, airports and airlines are trying their best to make the journey best for us after an unprecedented month. However, now we are hit again with a new variant. I have two major tips for everyone who wants to travel amid the emergence of the new variant of concern: firstly be prepared, do your research. Don’t believe everything the agent tells you. The second piece of advice that I have is to buy travel insurance which covers COVID-19. In such a time, insurance can help you cope with the unnecessary out of pocket expenses.

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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