Due to the recent increase in Covid-19 cases, many international and domestic flights have been cancelled by the respective State Governments. However, not all flights are cancelled, and the decisions taken at the highest level are quite blurred, which may do more harm than good. Though restrictions in localities and cities are working quite well the flight cancellations are neither feasible to stop passengers from reaching their destination, nor can prevent the community herd of a potential third wave.
Omicron cases are rising fast in Mumbai and Delhi. Amid rising cases, some states in India have imposed flight restrictions directly from these two cities. Taking another metropolis, Kolkata as an example, the flights from Mumbai and Delhi to Kolkata have been banned on all days but Monday and Friday. This restriction, according to the Government of West Bengal, is effective in stopping any Omicron wave in Kolkata. International flights directly from the UK, a hotspot of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, have also been suspended some days back.
The first loophole in the system is how flights operating on Monday and Friday can prevent any third wave in Kolkata, while those on the other days cannot. The mandatory quarantine, or tracing of passengers through the Air Subidha app, can be imposed on the travellers. Moreover, the cancellation was announced hours before the flight schedule, causing panic among passengers, leaving them without an option to travel to their destination.
The second, and possibly the biggest loophole lies in the fact that all express trains from Mumbai and Delhi to Kolkata are running, and there are options for bus travel as well. Most importantly, the travellers in trains or buses do not require any vaccination certificate or a negative RT-PCR test before travel. The travellers by flight need to undergo an RT-PCR test upon arrival in Kolkata, and after 8 days of arrival will need to do another RT-PCR test. If both tests turn negative, the travellers still need to spend 14 days in home isolation. No such restrictions are in place for other means of transportation.
The most controversial part is the third loophole, where the travellers from UK, Mumbai, and Delhi are allowed to come to Kolkata via another city. For example, a traveller, instead of coming directly from Mumbai can travel to Ahmedabad and then take a flight to Kolkata, or in the case of Delhi, can arrive via Lucknow. The Government openly declares that UK, Mumbai and Delhi passengers can come via other cities, without undergoing any severe restrictions.
Bhubaneswar and Jharsuguda airports have not applied such controversial restrictions, and have simply made the RT-PCR test mandatory for all arrivals at the airports. Though Covid-19 can still leak out, it is quite a safe and hassle-free measure for all passengers. However, the most urgent thing required now is wearing masks in the public and frequent sanitisation, which is somehow missing from everywhere across India. The good news among all these is that vaccination of children in 15-18 years have kick-started and this hopes to bring down the severity of infection in the children.
Written by – Himadri Paul