The resumption of commercial international flights -- scheduled for December 15 -- is likely to be postponed, with the authorities appearing ready to hit the brakes in view of the emergence of the new Covid variant Omicron. Airports across the country are already implementing a series of restrictions on incoming passengers, especially from "at risk" nations, that involve a strict regimen of tests and quarantine.
Indicating that the current "air bubble" system of operation will continue, a note from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation read: "In view of the merging global scenario... 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".
Omicron surfaces as the devastating effects of the second wave, powered by the Delta variant of the virus, were subsiding.
Normal work had resumed in offices, malls and cinema halls had opened their doors, schools were going offline, domestic flights started operating at full capacity and even international flight situation was about to get back to normal.
On November 26, the government had announced the resumption of scheduled international commercial flights from December 15.
International commercial flight operations were on freeze for more than 20 months and passenger flights were operating under a bubble arrangement -- which involved two or more nations allowing flights into each other's territories, subject to certain conditions.
But practically overnight, restrictions were back.
This morning, the Centre announced a series of guidelines for airports that include testing on arrival for passengers from more than 50 "at risk" countries. A negative result is essential to leave the airport.
Two per cent of passengers arriving from other countries – picked randomly -- will also be tested. They can leave before the results are declared, but must stick to home isolation for at least a week and report any Covid-related symptom, the new rules say.
Several airports, however, have announced their own rules and already, friction has broken out between the Centre and the Maharashtra government over this.
This morning, six international passengers arriving from 'at risk' countries have tested positive for Covid, Maharashtra has pointed out. Samples have been sent for genome sequencing.