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Delhi: IGI tests to cover 10 times more international flyers

NEW DELHI: With the Union health ministry issuing more stringent guidelines to tackle new Covid-19 strains, testing at Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport is increasing over 10 times — from 500-700 international passengers each day to over 7,000.

While it was only mandatory for passengers from the United Kingdom to undergo Covid testing, the new guidelines also mandate testing for passengers from the rest of Europe, West Asia, Brazil and South Africa, where new variants have been detected. To avoid overcrowding on the airport premises, passengers, other than those taking a connecting flight, will leave after giving a sample.


The airport operator, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), said it had revamped its Air Suvidha portal, which will now allow “death in the family” as the only exemption.


“As per the guideline, filling up of a self-declaration form on www.newdelhiairport.in has been made mandatory for all international-arriving passengers,” said a DIAL spokesperson. They will also have to upload a mandatory RT-PCR/molecular test report — undertaken within 72 hours of departure — in the the form. “These forms will help in identifying passengers on flights from the UK, Europe and West Asia, who will undergo mandatory RT-PCR on arrival,” said the spokesperson.


The Centre had issued new guidelines on February 17 following increased evidence of circulation of mutant variants of novel coronavirus, which have demonstrated increased transmissibility in many countries, an official said.


While the airport’s RT-PCR testing lab is capable of processing over 15,000 samples daily, officials said the operations team, comprising of data entry operators and sample collection technicians, has seen a 10-fold increase to handle the large inflow of passengers from the affected countries. “Suddenly from testing 500-700 international passengers per day, the lab is staring at 7,000-plus number, starting zero hour of February 23,” said an official.

Dr Gauri Agarwal, founder director of Genestrings Diagnostic, the testing lab at IGIA, said, “We’re fully prepared and will ensure a smooth experience for all passengers who’ll be obviously quite anxious,” she said.


Soon after the new norms were announced, over 200 staff members have been trained and recruited, she added. “It is expected that during peak hours, between 3am and 5am, there will be roughly 1,200 passengers an hour who will undergo mandatory testing.”

 

DIAL says passengers can either avail a regular service at Rs 800 per test, or a “faster” premium service at Rs 1,300. “If a flyer opts for the premium service, he can get a help who will assist in fast-tracking test processes like filling up forms, getting test done, etc,” the official added.


In Gurgaon, the flyers testing positive will be admitted to Covid care centres while others will have to stay under home quarantine for seven days, following which the health department will conduct another RT-PCR test.

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