New Delhi/Kolkata: No passenger flights will operate to Kolkata from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Nagpur and Ahmedabad between July 6 and July 19, the Kolkata airport said on Saturday as novel coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country. West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha had requested the Civil Aviation Ministry on June 30 to not schedule any flights between July 6 and July 19 to the state from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Chennai, Indore, Ahmedabad and Surat that have high prevalence of COVID-19 cases.
India resumed domestic passenger flights from May 25, after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown. Scheduled international passenger flights are still suspended in India. "It is informed that no flights shall operate to Kolkata from Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Chennai & Ahmedabad from 6th to 19th July 2020 or till further order whichever is earlier. Inconvenience caused is regretted," the Kolkata airport tweeted. The temporary restriction "is on the request of state government to restrict movement from high prevalence cities of coronavirus cases in order to contain the spread of COVID-19", it said in another tweet.
Domestic passenger services began at the Kolkata airport and Bagdogra airport on May 28 instead of May 25 as the state government's machinery was involved in relief and restoration work after cyclone Amphan's devastation. On the insistence of the state government, the aviation ministry had made it clear on May 24 that airports in Kolkata and Bagdogra were permitted to handle only 20 daily flights each from May 28 onwards. On June 30, Sinha told the aviation ministry through a letter: "As you know coronavirus is spreading fast all over the country. Some of the states are experiencing a larger spread of epidemic though we strongly believe that all the state governments are equally vigilant and active towards curbing the spread." West Bengal is also witnessing a steep rise in cases, he had said, adding that a large number of cases have been reported from people coming into the state from outside with infection.
So far, the virus has claimed 736 lives in Bengal. The West Bengal government has decided to stop or curtail movement of incoming flights and trains into the state, the chief secretary had noted. "Accordingly, I approach you with a request kindly not to schedule any flight to West Bengal from high prevalence places viz. Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Chennai, Indore. Ahmedabad and Surat and to stop movement of flights from these cities to Kolkata or Bagdogra for 2 weeks starting 6 July 2020,"
Sinha had stated in his letter. "I also request you to restrict the number of flights to Kolkata, Bagdogra and Andal from other cities to a frequency of once a week for each airline starting 6 July till 31 July, 2020," he had said. The developments come days after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged the Centre to stop international repatriation flights and domestic flights to Kolkata till July 31 from states with high COVID-19 prevalence. After the resumption of flight operations, on an average 65 domestic flights—as against 200 during pre-Covid days—took off and touched down every day since June 2.