In the wake of the rising Omicron concern, the West Bengal government has decided to temporarily pause all direct flights from the United Kingdom to Kolkata, effective from January 3.
The government made the decision in response to an alarming increase in Omicron cases around the world. From January 3, 2022, all travellers arriving in West Bengal from non-at-risk countries will be required to undertake COVID-19 testing at their own expense. According to the government directive, passengers would be required to pre-book the test before boarding.
According to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the COVID-19 instances in Kolkata are on the rise. The city is a transit point for persons travelling by train and plane.
Most Omicron cases are found among passengers arriving on planes from the United Kingdom. "The Centre must determine whether or not to impose limitations on aircraft from nations with high omicron cases," West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said to PTI.
On Wednesday, West Bengal reported 1,089 new illnesses, with Kolkata reporting 540 new cases, a significant increase.
Passengers must pre-book RT-PCR test before boarding flights
According to the West Bengal government, all passengers must pre-book the test prior to boarding to minimise waiting time on arrival, which the airlines must ensure before permitting boarding. As a result, the airport authorities may be urged to enhance the holding capacity of the international arrival lounge and the number of testing counters to cut passenger wait times at the airport.
According to the state government, airlines may be asked to evenly space flight arrivals at Kolkata's Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in conjunction with the Airport Director and the state nodal officer to reduce waiting time.
The state government's decision to halt flights from the United Kingdom came a day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee convened a review meeting on the state's COVID situation on Wednesday.
The administrative meeting was held in Sagar, in the district of South 24 Parganas.
Meanwhile, the country's total number of Omicron COVID-19 variant cases is increasing at a massive rate, with the highest number of cases recorded in Delhi and Maharashtra.