The Delhi airport is likely to have a COVID-19 testing facility for international passengers who if tested negative will get an exemption from the seven-day mandatory institutional quarantine, said senior government officials on Tuesday. As per the Union health ministry, passengers arriving from abroad have to undergo seven days of institutional quarantine followed by seven days of home quarantine.
"The government is considering establishing a COVID-19 testing facility at the Delhi airport. It takes around eight hours to get the results, which means the international passenger will have to remain at the airport premises for that duration," said a government official. If the test result is negative, the passenger will not be required to undergo institutional quarantine, the official added.
Post August 8, if an international passenger has a COVID-negative certificate from a test done 96 hours prior to the journey, he or she can avoid the seven-day institutional quarantine in India. "The testing facility at the Delhi airport would be for those international passengers who do not have such a COVID-negative certificate and still want to avoid institutional quarantine," said another government official.
Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, special repatriation flights and international charter flights have been permitted by the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Moreover, since July, India has formed separate bilateral air bubbles with countries like the US, the UAE, France and Germany under which airlines of both the countries are allowed to operate international flights with certain restrictions. Since August 8, a total of five categories of passengers are exempted from mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine — pregnant women; those who have suffered death in the family; those suffering from serious illness; parents accompanying children below 10 years of age; those who have COVID-negative certificate from a test done 96 hours prior to the journey.
The aviation sector has been significantly impacted due to the travel restrictions imposed in India and other countries in view of the coronavirus pandemic. All airlines in India have taken cost-cutting measures such as pay cuts, leave-without-pay and firings of employees in order to conserve cash.
India resumed domestic passenger flights from May 25 after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The airlines have been allowed to operate only a maximum of 45 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic flights. However, the occupancy rate in Indian domestic flights has been around just 50-60 per cent since May 25.