Testing may become must for int'l passengers

2 weeks ago 21

MUMBAI: Airports in Mumbai and New Delhi are preparing to offer Covid-19 tests to incoming international passengers, anticipating that it will become mandatory for all people entering India once normal flights resume.

Health ministry guidelines currently require incoming international travellers to get an RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test done 96 hours prior to their arrival in India or go for institutional quarantine.

However, ET has learnt that the health ministry is considering making it mandatory to test all those who land in India, if they haven’t done so before departure. This is the practice followed at major travel hubs including Dubai, Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Paris. Health ministry officials did not respond to ET’s queries on the matter.

Mumbai International Airport Ltd. said recently it has tied up with Suburban Diagnostics for the testing facility. The cost of the test is a minimum of Rs 1,600. Passengers can book online or at the help desk at the airport terminal and they will get their reports within eight hours. The facility can be used by domestic passengers, too.

Suburban Diagnostics told ET on Monday that it is putting in place separate test and lab infrastructure for airport travellers.

“We are testing 50 people per day now, but expect this number to go up,” said Anupa Dixit, lab director of Suburban Diagnostics.

At New Delhi airport, an on-site coronavirus testing laboratory has been launched in partnership with Genestring Diagnostic Centre. The lab has a walk-in option for all passengers. Incoming international passengers who haven’t been able to test before boarding their flight can book their slots online for testing at the Delhi airport lab upon arrival.

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Results of samples collected at the Delhi airport lab will be declared in four to six hours. With a negative RT-PCR test report, passengers can continue their onward journey. The test costs Rs 2,400 and an additional Rs 2,600 is charged for airport lounge access.

“We understand this is a pilot to soon do away with institutional quarantine altogether in coming months as people get tested in the airport,” Chetan Kohli, COO of Genestring Diagnostics, told ET.

Until the results are confirmed, passengers need to wait in an isolated area in the terminal or opt to stay in an airport hotel. In case of a positive result, they will be quarantined at home or in an institution, depending on the severity of their symptoms.

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