Transit passengers will have to wait for their test reports before boarding the connecting flight, the new SOP says. (Representative Image)(Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)
Transit passengers will have to wait for their test reports before boarding the connecting flight, the new SOP says. (Representative Image)(Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)

Delhi airport sets up more booths, deploys extra staff to test foreign flyers

The government of India on February 17 had issued new guidelines for passengers travelling to India, in the wake of new variants of the Covid-19 virus, with demonstrated increased transmissibility, being reported from countries such as the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
By Anvit Srivastava, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 23, 2021 03:15 AM IST

Arrangements have been made at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) to test all arriving international passengers starting Monday midnight. At least 30 new counters have been set up and additional staff deployed to test and guide the passengers through the new protocol.

The government of India on February 17 had issued new guidelines for passengers travelling to India, in the wake of new variants of the Covid-19 virus, with demonstrated increased transmissibility, being reported from countries such as the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

Starting Tuesday, all international flyers arriving at Delhi international airport on flights from the UK, Europe and South Africa can exit the airport only after giving their samples for an RT-PCR test. The flyers will also have to upload a “negative RT-PCR test report”, done within 72 hours of boarding the flight to India. Only those travelling on exigencies, such as a death in the family, will be exempted from the pre-boarding mandatory RT-PCR test, the new rules say.

Transit passengers will have to wait for their test reports before boarding the connecting flight, the new SOP says.

Since under the new arrangement, more RT-PCR tests will be conducted per day, special arrangements have been put in place at the Delhi airport.

Dr Gauri Agarwal, founder and director of Genestrings Diagnostics, which will be conducting these tests at the Delhi airport, said they were earlier conducting 500 to 600 RT-PCR tests a day, which is now expected to go up at least tenfold -- to about 6,000 to 7,000 a day.

“With government’s stringent approach to control spread of the new variant of the virus, the number of our daily tests will go up from 500-600 to 7,000-plus. While our laboratory is equipped to test more than 15,000 samples a day, the operations teams, comprising data entry operators and sample collection technicians, had to be increased to handle the large inflow of passengers from these countries. For this, a massive recruitment drive had to be launched and at least 230 additional staff had to be recruited overnight -- they will trained over the next two days,” Agarwal said.

“It is expected that during peak hours, between 3am and 5am, there will be roughly 1,200 passengers an hour undergoing testing,” she said.

The airport operator, DIAL (Delhi International Airport Ltd), said since all incoming international passengers on flights from the UK, Europe and South Africa will have to undergo the mandatory RT-PCR tests, two categories of services will be available for passengers. “One is the government approved rate of 800 per test, while the other is a premium service at 1,300. This service will also be available for pre-booking on www.newdelhiairport.in.”

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