The guidelines are for passengers flying to India from other countries.
The Kempegowda International Airport (BLR) has announced that the new travel guidelines are effective from today, but passengers and doctors feel worried about the spread of the Omicron variant.
The spokesperson for Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) said, “At BIAL, our main goal is to ensure that we implement government travel guidelines while also making sure that our travelers are not inconvenienced.”
The BLR airport passenger advisory dated Nov. 30, 2021, mandated that passengers have to undergo COVID-19 testing and wait for the results at the airport. The advisory also states that passengers can pre-register and pay for RT-PCR tests so that they have to wait for a shorter time. Passengers cannot leave the airport until they have received their results. Rapid RT-PCR tests take an hour to provide results, but standard RT-PCR tests take five to six hours to provide results.
Srinivasan has been travelling for the five years to Dubai for his business. “I recently travelled to Dubai before the variant came. I was just planning to go again but after seeing these new rules, I’m scared of the variant and irritated with the rules.” He added, “When I come back I don’t have the time to sit a wait for hours. I don’t even have a minute. This is just inconvenient.”
BIAL has stated it will take special care to make sure that passengers are safe. At airport eateries, staff has temperature screening before each shift and they wear masks and gloves. The cutlery and crockery is also sterilized before each use. But passengers still feel afraid.
Anusha lives in the US but visits her family in Chennai. She said she plans to visit India in December. “But with the variant looming around I don’t know what to do. Besides, I’ve heard from people that they don’t really follow those rules. I mean, who can really monitor every single person in the airport?”
She added that although the test may not be so inconvenient, it is certainly tiring after the flight. “I know it’s a norm and that is good they want to follow it. But at this point, I don’t even know if I want to travel. Maybe I’ll just postpone the trip,” she said.
The first case of the Omicron variant was reported to World Health Organisation (WHO) on Nov. 24, 2021—WHO then stated that it was a ‘variant of concern’. WHO website says “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of re infection with this variant, as compared to other variants of concern (VOCs).”
Doctors said that the medical industry has still not understood the nature of the variant. Dr. Latha has treated patients for lung ailments for 27 years. She said, “Pulmonologists treat the respiratory system and need at least two weeks to figure out something about the variant. COVID-19 enters the human body through the nose and then passes through the lungs and blood vessels. At this point, there is clotting and this can affect any organ: the brain, heart, kidneys, etc. And when these organs get affected and inflamed, it is fatal.”
But passengers do not like the norms and feel inconvenienced.
Public health policy experts feel that introducing new guidelines are unhelpful.
“More restrictions do not always mean more compliance. Do people really listen? All the government can do is legislate and implement. But a huge part of that implementation is people taking part and making it happen. But if they don’t want to comply, what can be done?” said Chandra Shekhar, a public health policy expert.
But passengers say they need more clarity so they can travel without fear. Anu said, “I am reconsidering booking tickets after this new variant. My biggest fear is that I do not know what this is. Nobody knows what this is. That uncertainty is the worst feeling. I think I will just stay at home until they at least tell me what this variant is all about.”