Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport on Friday evening tweeted a clarification of coronavirus testing and isolation rules for all passengers arriving on flights from the United Kingdom, stating, among other points, that the waiting time for Covid test results could extend up to 10 hours and that the cost of the test, and waiting period, had to be borne by the passengers.
The tweet came after chaos caused by a last minute revision of rules (after flights had taken off from London) that also made seven days’ institutional quarantine mandatory even for passengers with negative RT-PCR tests.
Delhi Airport said all passengers coming from the UK had to undergo RT-PCR tests both at origin and destination, and that all passengers – including those testing negative – had to undergo seven days’ institutional quarantine, followed by a further seven days’ of home isolation. It did not say if exceptions could be made for certain groups, such as parents with infants or pregnant women.
Kind attention to all flyers arriving from the UK. pic.twitter.com/LfeZFTYN44
— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) January 8, 2021
Irate passengers, who believed they had met Covid-related safety requirements for their flights home, faced an unpleasant surprise when landing in Delhi Friday morning.
“There is total chaos right now. We are inside a lounge… lots of security staff outside. We are being treated like we are in a cage… and hotels are trying to make this a business by offering deals for quarantine. We took our flight yesterday… there were no such guidelines,” Sourav Dutta, one of hundreds who have been stuck inside the airport for hours, told NDTV.
Several also took to Twitter to highlight the situation, tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in their messages.
However, Air India said it had “reached out to passengers of the London-Delhi flight, before the flight took off from Heathrow Airport at 2139 hrs last (Thursday) night”.
It also said passengers were told of the rule changes and “around 20 people opted to cancel their flight on being informed”. It added the announcement was repeated during the flight as well.
(3/6) Air India had reached out to passengers of the London-Delhi flight, before the flight took off from Heathrow Airport at 2139 hrs last night.
— Air India (@airindiain) January 8, 2021
The notification that caused the confusion was issued after a Thursday appeal by Mr Kejriwal – asking the centre to extend the ban on flights from the UK till January 31 – failed. At 2.30 pm Friday Mr Kejriwal tweeted revised rules. Passengers have pointed out they were not told of the changes.
“Just came from London AI112, it’s absolutely maniac at Delhi Airport. Asking us to go for institutional quarantine even with Negative PCR test. Didn’t mention this on your SOP,” Harprit Takkar tweeted with videos of the pandemonium, tagging the Civil Aviation Minister and Air India.
@HardeepSPuri Just came from London AI112, it’s absolutely maniac at Delhi Airport.
Asking us to go for institutional quarantine even with Negative PCR test.
Didn’t mention this on your SOP.@airindiainpic.twitter.com/B13HcbgVaG
— Harprit Takkar (@HarpritTakkar) January 8, 2021
The centre had suspended flight services between the UK and India on December 23 over the new and more contagious strain of the coronavirus that was first reported in September. Late Friday London mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in the UK capital, saying 1 in 30 people had COVID-19.
India has lifted the ban but major European countries – like France, Spain and Germany – have not. Friday morning a flight carrying 246 people (not including crew) from London landed.
Hours later, it was confirmed that 222 of them had tested negative for coronavirus, while the results of 32 others were pending. Two people had tested positive, although gene sequencing is needed to establish if they are infected with the UK strain.
The total number of active Covid cases in the national capital is around 4,200. So far over a dozen of these have tested positive for the UK variant.
Across India the number of active cases stood at 2.25 lakh on Friday morning, of which around 82 were of the UK variant of the virus.