Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has asked the Delhi airport operator DIAL to improve crowd management after passengers complained of chaos at the airport as the Omicron-related travel guidelines came into effect. Images from the Delhi airport since December 1 have given an impression of a crowded railway station, with hordes of masked passengers waiting for Covid tests and its results for anything up to eight hours. With a total absence of any social distancing, many have described the airport as "Covid hotspot".
After news reports and tweets about the situation, Mr Scindia held a meeting on Monday with officials of the Airports Authority of India, Bureau of Immigration and GMR group-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), reported news agency Press Trust of India.
Officials of Genestrings Diagnostics, the sole laboratory that does RT-PCR testing at the Delhi airport, were also present at the meeting, PTI reported.
Under the Centre's guidelines of November 30, all passengers coming from "at-risk" countries have to take a mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival. Besides, two per cent of passengers arriving from other countries would also have to take the test on a random basis. All of them have to wait for results and are allowed out of the airport only if they test negative.
To cut down on waiting time, many have been taking the more expensive rapid PCR tests -- which come at a hefty Rs 3,500. The normal RT-PCR test costs Rs 500.
In a statement, DIAL chief Videh Kumar Jaipuriar said with an increase in passengers pre-booking their tests, and more people opting for Rapid PCR test, "we have installed 120 Rapid PCR test machines and provided for 20 dedicated counters for passengers who have pre-booked their tests," he said.
"The tests are being completed quickly to minimize waiting time. The current time taken from sample collection to providing reports stands at 60 minutes for Rapid PCR test and five hours for RTPCR tests. We are also working closely with the immigration authorities to facilitate swift movement of passengers. For those waiting for their test results, seating arrangements have been vastly expanded and food counters have been made available in the waiting area," he added.
Commenting on a tweet about the situation at the Delhi airport, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram had said: "As I feared and warned. Total confusion and crowding in airports."
Yesterday, the Delhi airport authorities announced that 20 dedicated counters have been opened for passengers who pre-book their tests before flying in.
The Union health ministry has named several countries in Europe -- including the UK -- South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel in the "at-risk" category.
So far, 21 Omicron cases have been detected in India -- nine in Rajasthan, eight in Maharashtra, two in Karnataka and one each in Delhi and Gujarat.