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A technician inspects samples for RT PCR testing in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, on January 7, 2022. Image Credit: Bloomberg

New Delhi: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued directives for strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols at airports and inside the aircraft.

The development comes after the Delhi High Court ordered the DGCA to ensure strict implementation of the COVID-19 guidelines at airports.

The airlines shall ensure that all passengers wear face masks properly and throughout the journey. The masks can be removed under exceptional circumstances and for permitted reasons only.

It further stated that the airlines should ensure passengers are aware of the precautionary measures to be taken by them through their websites, travel agents, call centres, displays at airports, assistance booths at the airports, etc.

The airlines shall make regular announcements for awareness among the passengers on the need to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour such as hand hygiene, wearing masks, etc. during travel. Arrangements should be made for extra face masks and the passengers should be provided if required. Any passenger who fails to adhere to the instructions even after repeated warnings will be de-boarded, if need be, before departure, it said.

In case, any passenger on board an aircraft refuses to wear a mask or violates the “COVID-19 Protocol for passengers” even after repeated warnings, during the course of the flight, such passenger may be treated as an “Unruly Passenger” as defined in para 3.1 of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) Section 3 Series M Part VI (dated September 8, 2017) and the procedure in respect of handling such unruly passenger, as provided in above-mentioned CAR, shall be followed by the concerned Airline, said the instructions to the airlines.

“The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) or other Police personnel deployed at the entrance of the airports shall ensure that no one is allowed to enter the airport without wearing a mask. Supervising officers must ensure this personally,” the statement read.

All Airport operators are hereby directed to increase airport announcements and surveillance to ensure that the passengers at the terminal are wearing face masks properly and follow COVID appropriate behaviour at all times within the airport premises. In case any passenger does not wear a mask, or refuses to wear one and follow the COVID-19 protocols, he should be fined as per the respective State Law where the airport is located, and he may even be handed over to the Security Agencies for dealing with the matter as per the applicable law on the subject.

“Airport operators shall take sanitisation measures at airports and provide hand sanitisers /dispensers at prominent places in the Terminal. Also, airport operators shall levy fines on those violating COVID protocols in accordance with state regulations with the help of local police/security agencies, etc. for violation of COVID Protocols,” it read.

Government monitoring situation as cases spike

After a surge in COVID cases across the country, the Union Health Ministry is closely monitoring the situation in the states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and Karnataka and has asked them to follow the five-fold strategy and ramp-up testing, said official sources on Thursday.

The ministry has also asked the states to monitor clusters of new COVID cases and follow appropriate behaviour, sources told ANI.

Recently, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to the officials of five states, Kerala, Karanataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu to closely monitor emerging clusters, maintain adequate number of testing and send samples from infected individuals for genome sequencing.

“There are few states which are reporting a higher contribution to India’s cases indicating the possibility of a localised spread of infection. There is, therefore, a need to follow a risk assessment based approach on the public health responses without losing the gains made so far in the fight against the pandemic, “ reads the letter.

India on Thursday witnessed another jump in the daily COVID cases as the country reported 7,240 infections in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

On Wednesday, India saw a rise of nearly 41 per cent in the daily COVID cases, as the country logged 5,233 infections. This increase is believed to be led by another surge in COVID cases in Maharashtra. The state reported 2,701 new coronavirus cases last evening.