Maharashtra makes Covid-19 test must for passengers coming from 4 states

Airline and travel sector executives said the move would discourage people from travelling and adversely impact demand
After several rounds of deliberations on ways to control the spread of Covid-19, the Maharashtra government on Monday imposed restrictions on all air and rail passengers arriving from Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Goa. Passengers travelling from these states — which have seen a significant surge in cases — will have to obtain a negative RT-PCR test report before starting.

While the state government was initially contemplating a reduction or suspension in flights and train services between Delhi and Mumbai, it has opted for mandatory RT-PCR testing for arriving passengers instead. 

Airline and travel sector executives said the move would discourage people from travelling and adversely impact demand. Mumbai-Delhi is the busiest air route in the country with around 50 flights and over 6,000 passengers daily.

The new operating procedure was issued by Maharashtra chief secretary Sanjay Kumar on Monday and will come into effect from Wednesday. Air travellers will need to take a RT-PCR test 72 hours before travel to the state. In case of train travellers, the test needs to be done 96 hours in advance.

Airline travellers not carrying a negative RT PCR report would have to mandatorily take a test on arrival in Maharashtra. Only after the test, a passenger will be allowed to proceed home. Arriving passengers will have to share their contact details and if the test result is positive, they will be treated as per protocol.

Mumbai airport has a facility to test 3,000 to 5,000 persons daily. Pune airport, too, has a facility for testing passengers while Aurangabad airport is expected to get one in a couple of days. Details regarding test facilities in Nagpur and Nashik airports were not immediately available.

Rail passengers will be screened and checked for body temperature and those with symptoms would have to go for a rapid antigen test. A passenger testing positive will be sent to a Covid care centre. The cost of treatment would have to be borne by the passenger. 

Similarly, passengers arriving by road will be screened for Covid-19 symptoms at border check posts. Those with symptoms will have to undergo rapid antigen test and those testing positive would be sent to Covid care centres for further treatment.

Nishant Pitti, chief executive officer of EaseMyTrip, said since Delhi-Mumbai is the highest selling sector in the domestic market, the mandatory Covid test would impact demand ahead of the holiday season.

A senior executive of a private airline agreed. "Loads were picking up and sentiment was turning positive. This additional requirement will deter passengers from travelling," he said.

While there is no last minute booking rush, around 70-80 per cent of air tickets are being booked up to 15 days prior to journey date. Before March when the lockdown was imposed, the percentage of people booking 15 days in advance was only 50-55 per cent while the rest were booked even earlier.

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