Coronavirus LIVE Updates: Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik today said that the state has agreed to allow 25 take offs and 25 landings every day for domestic flights from Mumbai. “This number will be increased gradually. State govt will issue details and guidelines in this regard soon,” he said. Meanwhile, Maharashtra recorded 3,041 Covid-19 cases, the highest daily spike, taking the state tally to 50,231, a health official said.
Malik’s statement came hours after Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray sought more time from the Civil Aviation Ministry for restarting the operations at the Mumbai international airport. He also said that minimum possible domestic flights from Maharashtra be initiated from Monday. In an online briefing, Thackeray said, “I spoke to civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri today and told him that the Mumbai international airport needs more time to resume its operations.
The government today framed guidelines for international arrivals of passengers in India as the country gets ready to open up its airspace after months of lockdown. According to the rules, all travellers shall give an undertaking that they would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days: 7 days paid institutional quarantine at their own cost, followed by 7 days isolation at home with self-monitoring of health. Apart from this, at the time of boarding the flight/ship, only asymptomatic travelers will be allowed to board after thermal screening.
The guidelines come a day ahead of flight operations resuming on select domestic routes even though some states have expressed apprehension over the “hurry”. Amid the tussle between the Centre and states over resumption of domestic flights from May 25, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has said it’s “extremely ill-advised to reopen airports in red zone”. “Mere thermal scanning of passengers inadequate w/o swabs. Impossible to have autos/cabs/buses ply in current circumstances. Adding positive passenger will add Covid stress to red zone. #MaharashtraGovtCares,” Deshmukh tweeted. The minister said getting passengers to come from a green zone to a red one putting them at risk of exposure doesn’t make sense. “Keeping a busy airport up & running with all Covid-safety measures will need huge staff presence and compound risk in the red zone.”
All scheduled commercial passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 25 when the lockdown was announced. Since the government’s announcement of allowing these services in a phased manner last Thursday, all domestic carriers have commenced bookings for their flights on domestic routes from May 25. As per the May 19 order of the state government extending the coronavirus-induced lockdown till the end of the month, all domestic and international air travel, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes as permitted by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), will continue to remain prohibited across the state.
“We have not yet amended this lockdown order issued on May 19,” said an official when asked about the resumption of passenger flights in Maharashtra. “The government of Maharashtra has communicated its views to the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) that till such time MIAL plans and fine-tunes airport operations, they should initiate minimum possible domestic flights from Maharashtra from May 25, which are purely emergent in nature like for international transfer passengers from these cities, medical emergencies, students, and cases on compassionate grounds only,” said the official.
Air passengers, who booked tickets for domestic flights starting May 25, have been a harried lot as confusion prevailed on Saturday regarding various state governments’ flight acceptance and quarantine norms. The confusion was triggered after several state governments announced they will not allow domestic flight operations, while others said air passengers will be quarantined.
While Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday said he does not understand the need to quarantine domestic air passengers if they have downloaded the government’s contract-tracing app Aarogya Setu and the status on it shows green (negative), several states have said passengers arriving will be quarantined.
Apart from Maharashtra, states such as Bengal and Tamil Nadu have also objected to the resumption of flights.