The Delhi international airport has made arrangements to accommodate at the airport up to 1,500 international passengers at a time, including those coming from 'at-risk' countries, till results of their RT-PCR tests taken after arrival are declared, according to officials. Each passenger who will undergo the RT-PCR test will be charged around Rs 1,700. The amount includes charges for the RT-PCR test, and food and water during their stay at the airport till the test results come, the airport officials said on Tuesday.
International airports across the country have made preparations to implement the stricter COVID-19 guidelines, to be effective from midnight, for international passengers amid rising concerns of infections caused by the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. Under the guidelines, all passengers coming from 'at-risk' countries have to compulsorily undergo RT-PCR tests and five per cent of passengers arriving from other countries would also have to take the test on a random basis. The passengers will have to wait for the results before leaving the airport or taking a connecting flight.
The officials said that arrangements have been made at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in the national capital to implement the new guidelines and ensure necessary social distancing among passengers. The airport can accommodate 1,400-1,500 passengers at a time, including those coming from 'at-risk' countries, inside the airport. The passengers will have to spend at least six hours at the premises, including waiting for the RT-PCR test results, they added.
Currently, at the IGIA, the country's largest airport operated by the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), international operations are from Terminal 3 (T3). According to the officials, the testing facility at the airport can take 400-500 samples in one hour and one test result is expected in four hours or more time.
The immigration process will be done for the passengers only after their test results come. If required, the facilities for the passengers can be scaled up, the officials said. On average, over 10 international flights land at the Delhi airport daily, they added.
A spokesperson for the Bengaluru international airport said, "we are working with all the airlines and other stakeholders to implement the new procedures and minimise inconvenience to passengers". An Airports Authority of India (AAI) spokesperson said all AAI airports that have international operations are "fully prepared" to implement the guidelines issued by the Union government in coordination with state authorities.
The spokesperson also said that the top management of the AAI is also monitoring the situation. State-owned AAI is involved in the operations of 34 international airports, including customs airports.
There were no immediate comments from Mumbai airport on the preparations to implement the new guidelines. While India has not reported Omicron cases so far, the Union government has advised states and Union Territories to ramp up testing for early identification of any cases, undertake effective surveillance of international passengers and strictly monitor hotspots.
As per updated list on November 26, the countries designated as 'at-risk' include European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Israel and Hong Kong. On Monday, a GMR spokesperson said all necessary arrangements will be ready on time keeping in mind the fresh guidelines and passenger convenience.
"We have made similar arrangements earlier as well during previous waves of the pandemic. We will ensure adherence to COVID-19 protocol during the stay of passengers inside the terminal," the spokesperson had said. GMR is the majority stakeholder in DIAL and GHIAL, the operators of Delhi and Hyderabad airports, respectively.