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In a bid towards relaxing COVID-19 restrictions and easing inter-state mobility, Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Puri on May 20, announced the resumption of flights in a"calibrated manner" starting from May 25.
Following this announcement, inter-state travel which had been suspended for the last two months in order to contain the coronavirus resumed under mandatory guidelines by the Civil Aviation Ministry.
While laying down the rules of conduct inside the airport, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri confirmed that there will be no mandatory quarantine for passengers on domestic flights.
While in a later tweet the Minister further emphasised that decisions of such calibre cannot be taken without the sanction of the states, the resumption of flights was still not well received by many states with high numbers of COVID-19 cases who were determined to make quarantine facilities mandatory for returnees.
With domestic flights all set to start operations from 25th May, here are some guidelines for all passengers.— MoCA_GoI (@MoCA_GoI) May 21, 2020
These guidelines should be followed by passenger inside the aircraft.#WeShallOvercome #IndiaFightsCorona pic.twitter.com/THbhCAefTB
Amounting to more than 30 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases in India, Maharastra was reluctant to allow the operation of domestic flights. However, taking into account the number of stranded natives wishing to return to their state, the government gave in to the demands. As per rules laid down by the government, following the screening of every passenger landing in Maharashtra, they will be subjected to 14 days of mandatory institutional quarantine in large hotels.
While awaiting details of the standard operating procedure, Goa Government will be collecting swab samples of all returnees in the airport itself and will be sending them to quarantine facilities until their reports are back.
Every Indian returnee reaching Delhi airport will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day paid quarantine facility even if one doesn't show symptoms of coronavirus. Although earlier the government had allowed the home quarantine for asymptomatic passengers, they soon revised the guidelines to mitigate any undue risk. The state government has also arranged transportation of passengers to the institutional centres.
The 14-day institutional quarantine has also been made compulsory in Kerala for all those coming to the state. The returnees have to pay for their food and boarding and will be subject to punishment if they flout any quarantine rules. The state government, however, has exempted pregnant women and children under the age of 14 from the regulation subject to their self-imposed isolation at home.
On May 18, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said that institutional quarantine is a must for anyone entering the state. However, in view of the limited amount of quarantine facilities in comparison with the number of people to enter the state every day after May 25, the government decided to rule out institutional quarantine and therefore opt for home quarantine with enhanced vigilance and surveillance mechanism. Along with an increased number of tests and screenings, the government also believes that strict surveillance of people in home quarantine is the only way to keep the pandemic under check.
Ever since the state witnessed a spike in coronavirus cases after the influx of people from other states, it has been vehemently opposing the resumption of flights from May 25. While the state expressed that it is in favour of carrying out institutional quarantine for all returnees, it has also complained of lacking in facilities to carry it out effectively. The state also believes that a resumption of mobility is advised only after successfully combatting COVID-19.
Telangana Andhra Pradesh
Both the state governments have prescribed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people returning via any means of transport.
Andhra government has said that in case the number of passengers from a particular district is more than 50, they will be shifted to their respective district for quarantine. Such passengers will have to undergo 14 more days of quarantine at home.
The Assam government has made 14-day quarantine mandatory for all passengers entering the state. It has, however, exempted the pilot and members and other engineering staff of a flight from being quarantined.
"We have launched a program 'ruthless quarantine with a big human heart' by aiming to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus in the state. From now, the state government will spend expenditures of the people coming into the state from outside including food, hotel rent during the quarantine period," Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Punjab and Rajasthan
According to the advisory laid down by the Punjab government, returnees from other states or countries of the world are required to home quarantine themselves for 14 days regardless of them showing any symptoms.
Rajasthan government has also mandated a 14-day quarantine in the government quarantine facilities for all returnees to the state.
Bihar and Jharkhand
Returnees in Bihar will have to remain in paid quarantine facilities for a period of 14 days.
In Jharkhand, the government is, however, making quarantine arrangements for 500,000 people. "This is the expected number but not everyone would come and many of those coming would be sent to home quarantine because of no symptoms," Nitin Kulkarni, health secretary, Jharkhand told The Economic Times. "The quarantine centres are up to panchayat level and there are more than 40 in one district."
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur has directed that all those returning from red zones should be kept under 14-day institutional quarantine and only after testing for COVID-19. However, he also mandated that after seven days they should be shifted to home quarantine only if they are tested negative. People arriving from green and orange zones are required to be home quarantined and tests should be conducted on them randomly.
Jammu and Kashmir
With a huge influx of stranded people returning to J&K, the state has made it necessary for all of them to get tested and have also made it mandatory for such returnees to get quarantined for 14 days. At Srinagar's Tourist Reception Centre, officials have been working around the clock to receive passengers and subsequently taking them to quarantine facilities.
We have got 125 hotels which are functioning as quarantine centres. We do 100 per cent sampling whosoever arrives. As soon as the test report comes, we discharge them," said Syed Hanief Balkhi, Additional Deputy Commissioner Srinagar to NDTV.
The resumption of the inter-state mobility might bring stranded people closer to their homes but also poses a risk of mitigating the deadly Coronavirus on a large scale. While the states have mandated quarantine rules to be followed by people travelling inter-state, it is also the responsibility of the individual to act with restraint and help the states combat the pandemic. While domestic flights will resume from May 25, there has been no news regarding the resumption of international flights.
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