Delhi Airport has released a comprehensive list of guidelines and SOPs (standard operating procedures) for passengers and staff in anticipation of flight operations being restarted after the coronavirus lockdown is lifted. Flight operations will initially only be allowed in Terminal 3, an airport official told news agency PTI on Sunday.
The measures, meant to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus, include marked areas outside and inside terminals and airport buses to ensure social distancing, widespread provision of hand sanitisers, thermal screening of all passengers and thorough disinfection of baggage carts/trolleys.
In addition, all passenger baggage will be passed through UV disinfection tunnels at both point of departure and arrival.
All flight operations, domestic and international, have been suspended from March due to the lockdown to break the chain of transmission of the virus. The lockdown, which had been scheduled to end today, has been extended by two weeks, the Union Home Ministry said earlier this week.
On Saturday the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) issued a circular extending ban on flights till May 17 - the scheduled end of the third phase of the lockdown.
Once flights are allowed to resume, an important change for passengers is the move from the "all gates, all airlines" system practiced pre-lockdown (under which passengers could enter terminals from any gate) to "allocation of gates by airlines to distribute passenger load in (the) forecourt".
Under the revised system each airline is allocated a certain number of check-in rows and entry gates, and passengers for one airline will not be allowed to use facilities designated for another.
Under the revised rules, domestic airlines will operate from check-in rows A to H and entry gates 1 to 5. International flights will operate from check-in rows J, K, L and M and entry gates 6, 7 and 8.
Visitors entry into all terminals will be prohibited.
In two detailed flowcharts the document, titled "Delhi Airport COVID-19 Exit Plan, also identifies several possible "touchpoints", i.e., points where passengers and/or staff may have contact with other people or with surfaces on which active strains of the COVID-19 virus may be lingering.
These include baggage carts/trolleys, check-in/baggage drop counters, security check zones, stores and kiosks in the departure lounge, and departure gates.
Similarly, on arrival there are a number of "touchpoints", such as the baggage belt (and waiting area), baggage carts/trolleys and arrival areas outside the terminal from where cabs and other public transportation may be accessed.
SOP is also being worked out with cab providers for disinfection of cabs before use at the airport, the document adds, while similar SOP for metro and other modes of transportation will be initiated.
The document, which repeatedly mentions the need for social distancing and highlights pre-planned seating arrangements in all areas, also has "strict and stringent SOP for F&B, lounges, retail and all other non-aero areas".
It also encourages the use of contactless payment to avail of all facilities at the airport.
While these measures are specific to Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport, similar guidelines and SOPs are likely to be enforced at all airports in the country.
Across India nearly 40,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported with 1,301 deaths linked to the virus. As per Union Health Ministry data this morning, the country saw its biggest single-day spike in the number of new cases and deaths, with 2,644 cases and 83 deaths reported.
With input from PTI