Covid-19 New Variant Omicron: Effect Air Travel in India


Its is known to one and all across the globe, the magnitude of damage that the epidemic of Covid 19 has caused to the mankind as well as the economy worldwide. Declared as a pandemic, as per research, India has officially recorded more than 414,000 Covid-19 deaths so far. The consequences of Covid Pandemic have been devastating to say the least and have hugely affected all industries and sectors, along with each aspect of everyone’s life. One such industry to take the biggest hit owing to the pandemic was the Air line industry. Even though, Post March 2020, the airport security has become quite stringent in terms of taking strict precautions yet it can’t be dismissed that 2020- 2021 have been the worst years in the history of air travel demand. Talking of India, more and more flights were cancelled as the epidemic progressed and thousands of employees lost their jobs resulting in big financial losses. The vaccination drive against Covid 19 started in India on 16 January 2021 and till 30th November 2021, about 1.24 billion doses have been administered.

Arrival of Omicron

Just when the country was recovering from the catastrophe of Covid 19, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was reported On November 24, 2021 by World Health Organization (WHO) naming it as

Omicron and classifying it as a Variant of Concern (VOC). Thereafter, on December 1, 2021 the first confirmed case of Omicron was detected in U.S. The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) apprehends that the Omicron variant is more threatening than its original SARS-CoV-2 version and has a tendency to spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 is likely to be passed on to even those who are already vaccinated and don’t report symptoms.

Though the present vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, and death likely to occur from the infection of Omicron variant yet in people who are fully vaccinated are also prone to breakthrough infections. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has issued a warning that a massive third wave of Covid third wave is around the corner if necessary precautions are not taken on time. So far 23 cases of Omicron corona infected people have been detected across the country and there is a strong likelihood for it to spread to others soon enough. Therefore it is all the more necessary to take vaccination and booster shots.

Impact on Air Travel

At a time when India was struggling to regain its composure, Omicron is certainly bad news. But the good news as of now is that experts say the domestic travel will not be as much affected by Omicron virus as much as the International travel. In fact, domestic travel shows signs of recovery to match the pre-Covid time by the first quarter of 2022. Union Health Ministry has already issued stricter guidelines for international passengers to this effect. However with time, if the variant is found to be as serious as it has been projected, then it can result in more stringent controls on domestic air travel too. Airport security Guidelines have been upgraded in all the major states /cities.

Airport Precautionary Measures

Separate dedicated counters have been set up for the passengers arriving from "at risk" countries and having their mandatory COVID-19 test pre booked, to avoid the crowding at the terminal. According to the Union Health Ministry's guidelines issued earlier this week, all passengers coming from "at-risk" countries will have to undergo PCR test and five per cent of passengers arriving from other countries would also have to take the test on a random basis. The passengers will have to wait for the results before leaving the airport or taking a connecting flight, according to the guidelines. If any of the RTPCR Test is found to be positive, then such “High Risk Air Passenger” shall be shifted to a Hospital with COVID-19 Treatment Facilities. In case, the result of the RT-PCR test of the 7th day comes negative, such “High Risk” air passenger” “will have to undergo a further 7 days of Home Quarantine. In the case of domestic air travel, passengers will either have to be fully vaccinated or compulsorily carry RT-PCR Test certificate showing negative results within 72 hours before boarding.

Passenger Precautionary Measures

Vaccines – They remain the most effective health measure to protect you from Omicron’s transmission, and reduce the chances of catching the variant. COVID-19 vaccines pose as a safeguard from severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.

Masks -As per the latest guidelines lay down by The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) passengers who do not adhere to the rule of wearing a mask or wearing a mask properly will be taken off the aircraft. In further directions to the airlines, airport operators and Central Industry Security Force (CISF) will have to ensure that passengers wear masks and maintain social distancing norms at throughout travel and even generally when they are within the airport premises.

In case we follow all the guidelines while travel as responsible citizens, we can help in minimizing the risk of spreading Omicron and our travel can be continued comfortably domestically and internationally.

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