Omicron scare: Sisodia slams Covid tests rush at Delhi airport
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Sunday criticised crowd management at the Delhi airport retweeting a photo posted by a user on Saturday, and said that the airport and civil aviation authorities should handle such situations more intelligently.
The picture tweeted by one Suryanarayan Ganesh shows a jam-packed immigration hall at Terminal-3 of the airport.
“Airport and Civil aviation authorities should handle such situations more intelligently. And it’s not rocket science. There are solutions to handle much bigger crowds then (than) airport gatherings,” Sisodia tweeted.
Delhi airport officials said it was an old picture, and the situation has improved since 20 new designated counters were set up on Sunday to facilitate faster Covid-19 testing for passengers arriving from “high-risk” countries. The testing has been intensified in view of the emergence of the omicron variant of the Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Following guidelines issued by the Union heath ministry on November 26, passengers from South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel and all European countries are now required to take an RT-PCR test on arrival at the Delhi airport, even if they produce a negative test result before boarding, or are fully vaccinated.
A senior Delhi airport official, who asked not to be named, said, “We were observing that a lot of passengers were facing issues in paying for the test [RT-PCR] since they did not have enough Indian currency. So, they were registering for the test as well as getting the currency exchanged too. This was leading to some crowding. To fix this, dedicated counters have now been set up and passengers are being asked to pre-book their RT-PCR tests, so they can directly proceed to get tested,” the official said.
For pre-booked tests, the payment is accepted online.
“A significant number of incoming international passengers at Delhi Airport are pre-booking their Rapid/RT-PCR tests. This number of pre-bookings has been going up ever since the latest testing norms have come into practice. These dedicated counters will help ease the process further for passengers,” said Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), the airport operator.
On Sunday, Delhi reported its first confirmed omicron Covid-19 case, with a 37-year-old man who arrived in Delhi from Tanzania was found to be infected with the new variant. The patient has been isolated at the Lok Nayak hospital. A 40-bed separate ward has been created at the hospital for dealing with cases of the new variant.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain, who announced the first case on Sunday, said that banning international flights is the most effective way to contain the spread of the omicron variant. “Delhi receives the maximum number of flights from abroad, so Delhi is at the maximum risk. The central government should accept the demand made by [Delhi] chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and ban the flights coming from all the countries affected by the omicron variant at the earliest,” Jain said.
Some passengers who arrived from the at-risk countries on Sunday complained that it was taking almost two hours to get the RT-PCR test done, and there were no signages to facilitate the travellers.
“People got into queues but they were later told that it was meant were for pre-booked tests. They are doing a decent job, but they need to organise it better,” the passenger said while coming out of the airport on Sunday morning.
The first airport official quoted above said signages were placed on Sunday to guide passengers to the dedicated counters, and inform them about the registration process.