The Time Press

Handle air travel with Covid care

GoI’s decision to relax travel-related Covid protocols, particularly with regard to quarantine requirements, is welcome. The pandemic is now in its third year. In this time, vaccines have been developed and administered, although iniquitously. While the last known variant, Omicron, proved to be less virulent especially among the vaccinated, there is still no clarity if Covid-19 has transitioned into an endemic disease. Against much that remains uncertain, this much is certain that economic activity cannot be kept on hold indefinitely.

GoI’s decision to change protocols for international travel must be seen in this context. The simplification of the protocols is being done on a reciprocal basis. Therefore, for travellers from 82 countries, the self-declaration form Air Suvidha and certificate of full primary vaccination is enough to guarantee entry. Because it is on reciprocal basis, the government has not stuck to a mandatory pre-boarding RT-PCR test. This could well be reintroduced for all – including the fully vaccinated – if the situation merits it. By moving to a system of self-monitoring and reporting, the government is easing travel from these listed 82 countries. The realities of keeping the economy moving in these times of the pandemic require governments to constantly calibrate the demands of public health and requirements for trade and free flow of goods, services as well as people.

This constant calibration will have to be the standard operating procedure till universal vaccination is achieved, thereby minimising the emergence of new variants. At the individual level, it should mean continued adherence to masking protocols, vigilance and reporting. This is critical if we are to ‘live with Covid’ safely and freely.

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