Flying in times of a pandemic | HT Editorial

After 60 days, India will fly again today. While there have been special flights to bring back stranded Indians, regular domestic flight operations have remained suspended ever since the national lockdown was imposed from March 25. There was sound logic — travel could lead to the spread of the disease. But the suspension of flights caused devastating economic losses for the aviation industry, and inconvenience for millions of people who had to cancel their travel plans. With the government slowly easing restrictions, including resuming limited passenger rail services, the resumption of domestic flights is a logical next step.

But it is crucial to remember that cases in India are rising rapidly. This means there is no room for complacency. Fly only if it is essential; follow regulations carefully, by wearing masks, maintaining distance, and following respiratory hygiene. There has been a debate between the Centre and states on quarantining of passengers once they land, with the Centre on Sunday allowing states to frame their own guidelines. But it has also issued broad guidelines — self monitoring in case of asymptomatic passengers, home isolation in case of those with mild symptoms and institutional quarantine for those with moderate to severe symptoms. This is a sensible case-by-case approach, for mandatory quarantine for all passengers is impractical and difficult to enforce. But it is important that citizens behave with utmost responsibility — for themselves and for the sake of others, and authorities ensure that regulations are carefully implemented. Flying safe has taken on a new meaning in times of the coronavirus disease.

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