Thackeray said he had conveyed to aviation minister Hardeep Puri that, in keeping with Maharashtra’s lockdown restrictions, flights would be allowed to land only for medical emergencies or in exceptional cases such as to bring in stranded students. An hour after his address, NCP spokesperson and cabinet minister Nawab Malik announced an unexpected about-turn. “I have spoken to the chief secretary and our decision is that 25 flights to and from Mumbai airport will start from Monday,’’ Malik said.
Chief secretary Ajoy Mehta too confirmed the go-ahead. “The details of the flights are being worked out by the concerned departments and airline firms,” Mehta told TOI.
Pune and Nagpur will also see a resumption of flights, 17 and 4, respectively. Arriving passengers will be screened by government agencies and sent to 14 days of home quarantine.
Those on a short visit for a personal emergency will be exempted from the rule provided they submit proof. The policy is in line with the plan adopted by most states.
Aviation sources said according to the earlier plan, about 100 departures and 100 arrivals were to be handled by Mumbai, the second busiest airport in the country, from May 25. However, a pushback from states prompted the Centre to opt for a low-key start after a two-month suspension. This would leave a large chunk of passengers booked on 1,400-odd flights from and into Mumbai in the last week of May fending for refunds.
A list of stringent dos and don’ts will be in force when the lockdown lifts. A state official said it has been made clear to airlines that no individual living in a containment zone should be allowed to board a flight. “We have banned entry and exit from containment zones across the city,” he said. However, airlines cited practical difficulties in identifying a passenger who may originate from a containment zone. The rules, in any case, forbid a person from leaving a containment zone and the penalty for flouting it ranges from a fine to penal action.
MIAL also urged flyers above 14 years to mandatorily download the Aarogya Setu app. “Mumbai airport also advises passengers above 80 years as well as expectant mothers and passengers with health issues to restrict travelling,’’ the airport said in a statement. Besides, every passenger will have to strictly follow social distancing norm at the airport, and any violation will attract provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act as well as the Indian Penal Code.
All passengers will have to observe self-isolation for 14 days. Those on long visits will have to adhere to self-isolation for 14 days, while those on a short visit will have to give proof for reasons for their stay.