Omicron Effect: Chorus grows against resumption of normal foreign flight ops

New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS): A chorus is growing loud in India against the opening up of normal international flight operations from December 15 against the back of the new and reportedly more infectious 'Omicron' variant of Covid-19.

The demand coincides with the Centre's advisory to states and UTs to ensure preparedness of health infrastructure like availability of ICU, O2 beds, ventilators, amongst others and to focus on rural areas.

At present, several nations have either closed their air spaces or placed strict restrictions on incoming passengers.

In this environment, especially after suffering the massive second wave of Covid-19 which was unleashed by the Delta variant, many are questioning the Centre's move to open up the sector.

According to a survey done by LocalCircles, a majority of people want the Centre to reconsider its decision on lifting of foreign flights in light of the new Omicron or Covid B.1.1.529 variant.

"Two in three citizens want the government to reconsider its decision about restarting international flights from December 15, 2021 in light of the new Omicron or Covid B.1.1.529 variant," the survey showed.

Currently, several countries in Europe have gone into lockdowns due to rising Covid-19 Delta cases and Japan has suspended international flights.

Also, a few other countries have either banned or placed strict restrictions on international flights.

Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday raised concerns on the delay in stopping international flights.

"Many countries have stopped incoming flights from Omicron-affected countries. Why are we delaying? Even in the first wave, we had delayed stopping foreign flights. Most of the foreign flights come to Delhi, Delhi is the most affected. PM please stop flights immediately," Kejriwal posted on Twitter.

As per the Centre's guidelines, the passengers travelling from countries that are categorised as 'at risk' will have to undergo testing on arrival. These guidelines will come into effect from Tuesday midnight.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired a high-level meeting with states and UTs to review measures and preparedness amid reports of Omicron variant of Covid-19 across various countries.

The states were advised to undertake effective surveillance of international passengers, strengthen the testing infrastructure, effective monitoring of hotspots, and ensuring augmentation of health infrastructure.

But aviation stakeholders do not favour blanket bans.

"Well, suspending or extending the suspension of flights would be a knee jerk reaction. We need better screening at the airports and ensuring that only fully vaccinated people travel to the country," said IATO President Rajiv Mehra.

"We should be alert but avoid alarmist attitude. Medical experts also are of the opinion that there should not be a scare, however we should continue to wear mask and follow Covid appropriate behaviour."

India decided to allow resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from December 15.

However, the government said there will be a calibrated resumption of operations from the countries recognised as "at risk" by the Health Ministry.

There are over 10 countries in the "at risk" list including countries in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana and China amongst others.

Passenger air services were suspended in late March 2020 due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19. While domestic flight services resumed from May 25, 2020, international flight services were only maintained via bilateral 'Bubble Agreements'.

India has air bubble pacts with 28 countries.



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Comment on this article

  • Melroy C.F.Fernandes, Mangalore

    Wed, Dec 01 2021

    (1)As of now, all that has been found is that the COVID vaccines only provide relief from severe illness. They do not prevent the spread of the virus nor do they prevent the recipient from contracting COVID again nor do they provide any guarantees against any of the “new dangerous mutant ninja virii”. (2) By now all sensible people would have realised the “mask farce” too. (3)By now almost the entire population has probably been infected with CoV19 without them even knowing it. Almost the entire population would have developed antibodies from their immune system. This will protect them much better. All everybody needs is a healthy diet and more sunlight. Why force vaccines on those who do not need them???? (4) The only people who need the vaccine are those who are on the vulnerable side of health. That is about 2% or less of the human population. There is absolutely no need to vaccinate everybody. CoV2019(one of the 7 CoV that infect humans) is going to remain on earth and we will live with it. (5)All those who wish to inject themselves with vaccines and boosters and cocktails are most welcome to do so. They must respect the rights of others who do not need to be vaccinated. (6)In Jacob Puliyel Vs UOI, and in Nelson Paulo Fernandez Vs State of Goa the govt. has informed the SC and HC respectively that vaccines are not mandatory. (7) In State of Missouri Vs Biden(POTUS), a District Court has passed an injunction against mandatory vaccination and “no jab, no job” policy. Upholding the right of the individual to choose how he wants to protect his health. (8) There is no stopping the virus. New Zealand’s foolish policy of closing all borders has not worked. It cannot be done eternally. The virus and its variants are here to stay.

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  • vishnu bhat, bangalore

    Wed, Dec 01 2021

    even if you stay locked up forever, you will get infected. Foolish to behave like the mythical Parikshit - he still got bitten by the snake!

    DisAgree [1] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rita, Germany

    Wed, Dec 01 2021

    What is the use of closing coming in or going out flights ,when people inside the country are not yet completely got the shots.?First vaccinate the people in India.There is enough infection of black fungus ,covid ,How many people are vaccinated twice atleast or Booster.How long one can keep flights closed ?Only apply restrictions for incoming and outgoing flights.However flights going out are compelled to hve vaccinated complete and a Corona test negetive vor 72 hours of flights is a must at present.usual use of mask all the time as usual.One can not simply close flights and sit .Usual International connection has to be there,Due to lack of parts etc ,or other important foodstuffs should be brought in or sentout,whole economy will be coming to a stop .First clean the own house and then rest.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

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