Negative RT-PCR report may not remain mandatory for domestic flying, says minister Hardeep Singh Puri
Passengers who have received both the shots of Covid-19 vaccines may not need negative RT-PCR test reports for domestic flying, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri told news agency ANI. The Indian Council of Medical Research in its latest guideline for Covid-19 testing suggested that the provision of mandatory RT-PCR test for inter-state domestic travel can be completely removed. While the suggestion was to reduce the load on RT-PCR labs, which became overburdened with tests during April-May, which prolonged the waiting period, the minister told the news agency that it is under consideration of the ministry.
But the decision will not be taken by the ministry alone. The opinion of health experts will be sought before taking any decision in this regard.
"A joint team from several ministries and stakeholders, including the health department, are in discussion to take a final decision on allowing travelling by air without an RT-PCR test for those who have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine," the minister said.
India has recently overtaken the US in terms of the number of people who have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine. About 43 per cent of the 60 plus population has been covered with at least one dose and about 37 per cent of 45 plus population has recived one dose.
However, even if a negative RT-PCR report does not remain mandatory for flying, destination states may still want this as a mandatory provision. "Health is a state subject, and to ask passengers for a negative RT-PCR report before they enter a state is solely the right of that particular state," Puri added.
Domestic flight services saw several changes in the last few months as the second wave of the pandemic gripped the country. From June 1, the airlines have been asked to operate only 50 per cent of their pre-Covid domestic flights instead of 80 per cent. After being completely shit for two months in 2020, domestic flights resumed operations with about 33 per cent of their usual services. With the Covid-19 situation gradually improving, the cap was increased to 80 per cent by December 2020.
From June 1, the fares of domestic flights have also gone up as the ministry raised the lower limit on fares by 13 to 16 per cent.
(With agency inputs)