Rules to stop coronavirus variant stoke chaos at Indian airports
By Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Devjyot Ghoshal
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Passengers who flew into India's largest airports on Wednesday complained of long wait times and confusion as authorities tried to impose rules to stop the spread of a new, more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.
Like many countries, India has suspended flights from the UK, where cases have risen sharply due to the variant.
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People arriving from the UK before the ban went into effect on Wednesday were tested, including Kamini Saraswat, whose plane landed in New Delhi just before midnight.
Despite pre-reserving a test, it was her turn nine hours after arriving, telling Reuters that she was still stuck at the airport waiting for the result.
"There is no clear communication," said Saraswat, 28. "There is no social distancing."
Cell phone footage captured by Saraswat and shared with Reuters showed long lines of passengers and crowds crowding around desks to get tested.
India's hardest-hit state of Maharashtra, home to the financial capital Mumbai, has taken additional measures and quarantined most passengers from Europe and the Middle East for a week. Many European and Middle Eastern countries have also suspended flights from the UK, but are acting as transit hubs for the major airlines flying to India.
Ishwari Gaurav Naik, who came to Mumbai from Dubai around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, said she would have to wait more than six hours before authorities sent her and three family members to a quarantine facility.
"There was a lot of chaos there," said Naik from her temporary accommodation in a school. "Nobody knows anything. There is no coordination between employees."
Officials at Delhi and Mumbai Airport declined to comment, and local officials in both cities and at India's Federal Ministry of Health did not answer questions from Reuters.
Federal agencies have announced that all necessary measures will be taken, but have provided few details about the staffing of the additional controls.
India's plan to track and screen all arrivals from the UK since November 25th is also expanding.
Immigration officers have been charged with providing the details of all travelers from the UK since then. You will then be contacted by state and regional health authorities.
A 54-year-old British national who flew to Mumbai Monday morning said he had not received the result of his coronavirus test at the airport or any other calls.
"The intent may be very good, but it all depends on the execution," he said, declining to be named.
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal and Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Alison Williams)
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