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Tighter curbs prove costly to travellers

Passengers arriving at the T3 Terminal of the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

As stricter testing norms at airports for international arrivals kicked in from Wednesday, passengers from “at-risk” countries had to brace for massive queues, long waiting time for test results and missed connecting flights. Their only way out though is to pay for an expensive rapid RT-PCR test that costs up to ₹4,500 — nearly nine times the regular test.

 

“I reached Delhi on Wednesday morning from Spain. The Delhi airport was a complete mayhem. I had booked an RT-PCR test online, but I still had to stand in a long queue at the airport and then I was told that I would have to wait up to 48 hours for the test result,” a young woman passenger told The Hindu. She ultimately opted for the rapid PCR test for which results take only one hour and paid ₹3,900. Yet, it took her two hours to complete various formalities and exit the airport.

 

“What a money-making racket. If the report can be delivered in one hour, why six hours for others,” she asked.

Ministry guidelines

According to the latest guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, all passengers arriving from “at-risk” countries have to undergo an RT-PCR test on arrival and have to wait for the report before exiting the airport and catching a connected flight. Most airports offer passengers RT-PCR tests and rapid PCR tests. While the former costs ₹500 per test, the latter costs ₹3,000 at the Bengaluru airport, ₹3,900 at the Delhi airport and ₹4,500 in the Mumbai airport. The waiting time for the former is up to six hours, which can get extended as per travel rush, and the latter is 1 to 1.5 hours. But the chaotic scenes awaiting international passengers, particularly those from at “risk countries”, mean most are forced to dig deeper into their pockets.

On Wednesday morning, passengers who undertook the costlier test at the Delhi airport were four times those who opted for the cheaper test. “A total of 1,013 passengers from four ‘at-risk’ flights successfully completed arrival formalities due to the availability of the Rapid PCR test along with the RT-PCR test. About 792 passengers decided to take the Rapid PCR Test and 221 opted for the RT-PCR test,” said the Delhi airport in a tweet.

 

Lack of social distancing

There were also concerns about lack of social distancing and missed connections.

“I arrived today morning from London and it was a scary and anxious stay at the airport. All they are concerned about is RT-PCR [tests] and absolutely no compliance to general rules like social distancing and ensuring everyone wears a mask. Horrifying,” said Prachi Saraswat on Twitter.

Watch | All about the new Omicron coronavirus variant
 

“Flying with KLM from Copenhagen to Kolkata with 5.5 hours gap between arriving in Delhi at 1:10 a.m. and departing at 6:30 a.m. With current RT PCR rule who is going to help me board the connecting flight?” wrote Sravasti on the microblogging site.


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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 7:56:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/omicron-tighter-curbs-prove-costly-to-air-travellers/article37795545.ece

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