11 countries, including United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel, have been put in the ‘at-risk’ category due to the spread of the new COVID-19 'Omicron' variant, Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia informed the Parliament on Thursday.
Briefing the Lok Sabha on the Covid situation in the view of the emergence of the newly detected Omicron strain, Scindia informed there will be RT-PCR tests for flyers from ‘at-risk’ countries.
The minister's statement comes a day after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) confirmed that the decision to resume international flights from December 15 has been put on hold.
Last week, the government had said that the international scheduled commercial flights would resume from December 15 after a 21-month ban. During the announcement, the ministry had also said the decision was taken after consultation with the ministries of health, home and external affairs.
“It has been our effort over the last six months to slowly increase flights, internationally as well. Omicron is a setback as all countries across the world need to be safe therefore several countries have put different yardsticks, I think the yardstick put in place by our government, with putting 11 countries marked as at risk and testing them completely, is the right way to go,” Scindia said.
Scindia also told the Parliament that India presently has air bubble travel agreements with 31 nations.
“At present, we have air bubble agreement with 31 countries and have a proposal with 10 other nations to start air bubble agreement,” he said answering a question regarding the current scenario of air bubbles and travel during Covid-19.
The DGCA in its order on Wednesday had said: “In view of the evolving global scenario with the emergence of new variants of concern, the situation is being watched closely in consultation with all stakeholders and an appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services shall be notified in due course.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also chaired a review meeting on Covid-19 preparedness last week, where a review on the plans for lifting restrictions on international travel was taken.
With Agency Inputs
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