Coronavirus in Mumbai: International fliers to undergo RT-PCR test at airport

Mumbai: Soon, international passengers arriving or departing from Mumbai will have to undergo Covid-19 testing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, if they have not done their Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing within 96 hours of travelling. The airport authority has floated a tender inviting private laboratories for the same.

Officials said they will be starting RT-PCR tests on a pilot basis and depending on the Covid-19 report, passengers will be allowed to continue their further journey.

The ministry of civil aviation late on September 2 issued guidelines on starting RT-PCR tests on a pilot basis for those international passengers arriving in India, who have connecting domestic flights after landing.

Officials from the airport authority said the passengers will be given two testing choices—-regular RT-PCR testing which takes over 8 hours to get the report or GeneXpert, which was initially designed to detect tuberculosis (TB). The latter one gives testing reports within 30 minutes. The passengers will have to pay the testing fee from their own pockets.

“The passengers who have connecting flights from Mumbai airport and if they do not have RT-PCR negative report will have to undergo the test at the airport itself. However, we will be giving the option of online booking for testing at the website of Mumbai airport,” said an officer from Airport Health Organization (AHO).

He further said, if the RT-PCR test result is negative, the passenger will be permitted to take the connecting flight to other domestic destinations in India without getting quarantined at the city of arrival in India. “There is no provision for RT-PCR test at the entry point of the airport itself if the passenger could not get the same done within 96 hours prior to undertaking the journey from abroad,” read the circular.

According to the guidelines, the airport operators will create facilities, which will serve as sample collection areas for RT-PCR testing and will also be used as a waiting lounge. The facility should be in strict compliance with the protocols established by the ICMR and the NABL. One representative of state authorities of the airport will also be present at the waiting lounge.

Health experts have welcomed the move stating that considering the increasing Covid-19 cases in Mumbai, it is a much needed initiative and continuing increase in cases gives indications of a second wave. “On an average, more than 1,500 cases have been reported in Mumbai over the last one week. In such a situation, it is essential to keep a check on the passengers at the international airport which attracts a large number of passengers daily,” said Dr Abhijeet More, co-conveyor of Jan-Arogya Abhiyaan.

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