Taking a stringent route to curb the spread of rising Omicron cases in the country, the West Bengal government has issued a notification banning all international direct flights from the United Kingdom to Kolkata with effect from January 3.
The state government also issued a diktat for all international passengers to undergo a mandatory Covid-19 test on arrival at the airport. All arrivals from ‘at risk’ countries are already required to take an RT-PCR test on arrival at Indian airports whereas, at the Kolkata International Airport, all arriving international passengers from countries, not ‘at risk’ will be required to mandatorily undergo a test on arrival at their cost.
Further, the airlines will randomly select 10 per cent of total passengers for the RT-PCR test and the balance 90 per cent shall undergo Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on arrival from the not ‘at risk’ countries. Those found positive after the RAT test will have to further undergo RT-PCR tests as may be required by the health authorities.
In an official order issued by the West Bengal government on Thursday, Additional Chief Secretary, BP Gopalika informed Rajiv Bansal, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India about the decision to restrict incoming international flights owing to the rising number of Omicron cases globally as well as within the country. He also said that all passengers have to mandatorily pre-book the Covid-19 test before boarding the flight to reduce waiting time on arrival in Kolkata, which all airlines must ensure prior to allowing boarding of passengers.
“Accordingly, the airport authorities may be asked to augment the holding capacity of the arrival lounge on the international terminal and also increase the number of testing counters so as to reduce the waiting time for the passengers at the airport,” the order further mentioned. The state government also requested all the airlines to evenly space the flight arrivals at the Kolkata International airport in consultation with the Airport Director and the state nodal officer so as to reduce waiting time.
Kolkata on Wednesday reported 540 new cases of Covid-19 while the state reported 1,089 cases in total. The state reported a total of 11 cases of Omicron variant by Tuesday. The decision of curbing flights from the UK was taken a day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a review meeting over the Covid situation in the state.