Rules to stop coronavirus variant stoke chaos at Indian airports
Passengers flying into India’s largest airports on Wednesday complained of long waits and confusion as authorities sought to impose rules to try to stop the spread of a new, more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.
Like many countries, India has suspended flights from Britain, where cases have skyrocketed due to the variance.
People arriving from Britain before the ban went into effect on Wednesday were being tested, including Kamini Saraswat, whose plane landed in New Delhi shortly before midnight.
Despite pre-booking a test, her turn came nine hours after arrival and she told Reuters she was still stuck at the airport waiting for the result.
“There is no clear communication,” said Saraswat, 28. “There is no social distancing.”
Images taken by cell phone by Saraswat, shared with Reuters, showed long lines of passengers and crowds huddled around desks to get tested.
Maharashtra, India’s hardest hit state, home to the financial capital Mumbai, has taken additional steps, quarantining most passengers arriving from Europe and the Middle East for a week. Many European and Middle Eastern countries have also suspended flights from Britain, but act as transit hubs for large airlines flying to India.
Ishwari Gaurav Naik, who arrived in Mumbai from Dubai around 2 a.m. Wednesday, said she had to wait more than six hours before authorities sent her and three members of her family to a quarantine center.
“There was great chaos there,” Naik said from his temporary accommodation at a school. “Nobody knows anything. There is no coordination between the staff. “
Officials at Delhi and Mumbai airports declined to comment, and local officials in both cities and India’s federal Ministry of Health did not respond to questions from Reuters.
Federal authorities have said that all necessary steps will be taken, but have given few details about how the additional controls will be distributed.
India’s plan to track and assess all arrivals from Britain since November 25 is also being expanded.
Immigration officials are tasked with providing the details of all travelers to Britain since then. They will then be contacted by state and district health officials.
A 54-year-old British national who flew to Mumbai on Monday morning said he had not yet received the result of his coronavirus test at the airport or any follow-up calls.
“Intent may be very good, but it all comes down to execution,” he said, declining to be identified.