As India resumes international flights from December 15, after keeping them suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic from March 23 of last year, a majority of people want government to reconsider its decision in light of the new Omicron or Covid B.1.1.529 variant, according to a survey. The findings are based on the responses received from over 16,000 citizens across 309 districts in the country, online platform LocalCircles said on Saturday.
The Omicron strain was first reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa on Wednesday and has been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. Nations currently on India’s ‘at-risk’ list are South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel, and European countries, including the UK.
Read: Omicron Tracker: Samples of Covid+ Travellers from 12 ‘At Risk’ Countries to be Sent for Genome Sequencing
According to the majority, the decision of the Government of India to resume international flights at a time when countries around the world are instituting flight bans must be reconsidered. 64% of citizens want the Government to re-evaluate this. Also, 72% of the citizens surveyed believe that for international travellers if there is no mandator quarantine, the Government should mandate an RT-PCR within 24 hours of boarding in addition to one at arrival.
With flight screening, testing and tracing of international travellers not working effectively on the ground in February 2020 and again in the first 3 months of 2021, cittizens want the Government to be extremely cautious.
Read: Scheduled International Flights to and From India to Resume from December 15
64% CITIZENS WANT GOVERNMENT TO RECONSIDER ITS DECISION
The first question asked citizens if the government needs to reconsider starting international flights from December 15, 2021. In response, 64% of citizens said “Yes, better to be safe than sorry.”
Only 25% of citizens said that it is important to restart international flights and 11% couldn’t say. The question received 8,588 responses.
72% CITIZENS WANT GOVERNMENT TO IMPLEMENT MANDATORY RT-PCR
Government had exempted travellers from 99 countries from mandatory quarantine requirements and instituted a mandatory RT-PCR test at arrival. Recently, a stringent screening and tracking requirement has been put in place for countries classified at risk by India which includes South Africa, Hong Kong and several others.
However, according to citizens however the overall risk from international flights has risen post the identification of this new variant and increased risk mitigation is the need of the hour if international flights are to continue.
The question in the survey asked citizens, “Given the new variant B.1.1.529 and a recent major increase in Covid cases in many countries around the world, what should be India’s approach towards travellers from these countries?”
In response, 51% of citizens said, “Continue with current rules and permit them without quarantine but require an RT-PCR test within 24 hours before boarding and upon arrival”. Breaking down the poll, 21% said “Permit travellers from these countries but implement RT-PCR at boarding and arrival and implement a 14-day mandatory quarantine.”
Further, 14% said the Government of India should “Continue with current rules and permit travellers from these countries without quarantine”, and 12% said “Temporary suspend all existing flights from countries with TPR of 2% or higher” while 2% did not have an opinion.