Passengers from Heathrow stuck at Amritsar airport for over 12 hours due to Covid-19 testing
The 242 passengers and 10 crew members on board the Air India flight from the United Kingdom that landed at 12.05am on Tuesday were stuck inside the terminal of Sri Guru Ram Das Jee international Airport in Amritsar for more than 12 hours as their RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 were being conducted.
The alleged delay in testing led to tension at the airport as the passengers and their relatives waiting in the chill outside since midnight raised anti-government slogans.
The aircraft had departed from Heathrow airport in London before India decided to suspend flights from the UK till December 31 to block a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across England. The RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test for Covid-19 was made mandatory for the passengers on arrival and they would be allowed to exit only after they test negative. The passengers who test positive would be taken to hospital or quarantine centres.
PASSENGERS PROVIDED FOOD, MILK: AIRPORT DIRECTOR
Airport director VP Seth said that food and milk was being provided to the passengers and the reports of the tests were expected anytime.
Amritsar assistant deputy commissioner Himanshu Aggarwal said the sampling process started as soon as the flight landed. “Each passenger and crew member has to undergo the RT-PCR test.” He said the airport authorities had already informed their relatives about testing. Asked about the protest by some passengers, Aggarwal said, “Usually, it takes five to six hours for clearance of all international passengers. But today it will take a few hours more and everybody should bear with us.”
Punjab Police personnel were deployed to ensure the situation remained peaceful.
OUT IN COLD, RELATIVES ON TENTERHOOKS
The administration had shared a communiqué on Monday evening to intimate the recipients that the passengers would be kept inside for eight hours but the procedure took longer, leading to the protests.
Ankush, a resident of Faridkot, said his brother Ankur had arrived on the flight. “All our family members have been waiting for him for the past several hours,” he said.
Amrik Singh, whose son Sukhwinder arrived from the UK, said, “I have enquired from the airport authorities about the test report of my son for a number of times but they keep saying that it will take two hours more.”
“I got a message from inside that several passengers have protested for the delay in the sampling and testing process. I fail to understand why all passengers have been detained there for more than 12 hours on the pretext of testing,” he said. (With PTI inputs)