Kolkata: Efforts are underway to roll out a swab collection facility and isolation centre soon at Kolkata airport for passengers flying in from abroad. Sources in the government and at the airport said they hoped to offer the testing on arrival option to flyers by end-October or latest beginning December.
As per the initial discussions held between the airport operator and state officials on Wednesday, health department will collect swab samples of passengers who touch down at Kolkata without a Covid report, ask them to wait at the air-conditioned makeshift area for 6-7 hours and after receipt of the report from an ICMR accredited laboratory, Covid negative passengers will be returned their passports and allowed to head home. Those who test positive will either be sent to a hospital or a safe home as advised by the doctor.
CM Mamata Banerjee had on Tuesday said the state was ready to provide a facility for Covid tests at the airport like the ones already operational in Delhi and Mumbai.
“We will set up a makeshift isolated area between the baggage carousal and the departure gates in the international wing where arriving passengers will deposit passports and health department personnel will collect swab samples. The passengers will have to wait in enclosure till the reports arrive,” said airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee.
An official said the enclosure will have all basic facilities, including washrooms, cafeteria, eateries, WiFi and charging points to ensure flyers aren’t inconvenienced during the long wait. In Delhi, where RT-PCR tests are carried out on arrival, the package comprising testing, waiting in a lounge and meals costs Rs 5,000. No price has been worked out for Kolkata yet.
International flights to Kolkata are currently restricted to only those that bring in Covid-negative flyers. The test has to be done within 96 hours prior to the flight departure for Kolkata. The negative report needs to be submitted online before passengers are allowed to board. In the UK, testing is expensive (around Rs 20,000) and time-consuming. Though there is demand for flights from Singapore, airlines have not been able to introduce them as testing is again controlled in Singapore.
International flyers hailed the decision. “I decided to travel via Delhi while returning from Amsterdam as getting a test done is near impossible for a person who displays no symptom or doesn’t have an immediate Covid contact. If the facility is available in Kolkata, many will take direct flights back,” said IT consultant Debabrata Banik.