Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Monday directed Delhi airport operator DIAL to implement better crowd management strategies after passengers complained of chaos and crowding at its terminal following the implementation of new coronavirus-related travel guidelines, senior government officials said.
Amid concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Centre had issued a revised guideline for international travellers which came into effect on December 1.
The minister called a meeting on Monday with officials of the Airports Authority of India, Bureau of Immigration and GMR group-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), they noted.
Officials of Genestrings Diagnostics, the sole laboratory that does RT-PCR testing at the Delhi airport, were also present at the meeting. At the meeting, the minister directed the DIAL to implement better crowd management strategies, officials noted.
Commenting on a tweet about the situation at the Delhi airport after the new travel rules kicked in, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram had said on Saturday: "As I feared and warned. Total confusion and crowding in airports."
Sharing pictures of long queues at the Delhi airport, another Twitter user had said on Friday, "Taxes paid, airport charges paid. Huge rush but available resources are not being utilised. For one hour of flight approx three hours need to be spent in queue for processes to be completed."
The DIAL had said on Saturday that 20 dedicated counters have been set up for the passengers arriving from "at-risk" countries and having pre-booked their mandatory Covid-19 test.
According to the Union Health Ministry's guidelines issued on November 30, all passengers coming from "at-risk" countries have to compulsorily undergo RT-PCR test and two per cent of passengers arriving from other countries would also have to take the test on a random basis.
The passengers will have to wait for the results before leaving the airport or taking a connecting flight, according to the guidelines.
Countries in Europe, including the UK, and South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel have been placed in the "at-risk" category by the Union Health Ministry.
At the Delhi airport, rapid PCR test costs a passenger Rs 3,500 but the results come in 60-90 minutes. RT-PCR costs a passenger Rs 500 and the results come in around six hours. A passenger coming from an "at-risk" country can choose either of the tests at the Delhi airport.
In a statement issued on Monday evening, Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO, DIAL, told PTI that the Delhi airport has been making continuous enhancements in infrastructure and processes to manage the new screening norms for passengers arriving from "at-risk" countries.
The number of passengers pre-booking their tests on arrival have been going up every day, he noted.
"In addition to this, more and more passengers are opting for Rapid PCR test over the regular RT-PCR. Keeping this in mind, 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 the waiting time, he added.
The current time taken from sample collection to providing reports stands at 60 minutes for Rapid PCR test and five hours for RT-PCR tests, Jaipuriar said.
"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.