In a latest development for international arrivals, major Indian airports which are basically ports of entry for VBM and air bubble flights from abroad have got COVID19 testing facilities. Indians, foreign citizens of Indian origin, and foreign nationals (having a valid visa to India) can now take COVID tests on arrival at entry airports before traveling to the final destination. This is another way for them to get exempted from institutional quarantine at the final destination.
New Delhi International Airport’s COVID-19 testing facility has been operational since September 11, 2020. Located in Terminal 3 of Delhi IGI Airport, the 3500-sq-ft COVID test center can test as many as 2500 individuals a day and deliver test results in 4-6 hours. The COVID testing facility integrates a lounge where inbound travelers can unwind while waiting for the results. It costs an individual Rs. 5000 including Rs 2400 for test and Rs 2600 for the lounge. People arriving at Delhi airport, having a separate ticket for their onward domestic flights and not carrying a negative COVID test report from the port of origin, can get tested at the airport. If the result is negative, they can get away with the 7-day institutional quarantine in Delhi and travel onward.
Inbound travelers opting for onsite COVID tests at Delhi Airport need to book slots on the airport website at least one hour prior to their arrival. They need to provide certain details such as their names, contact details and a valid ID proof while booking slots online. An individual traveling with family or in a group can book a single slot for the testing of all. The pre-booked slot can be modified in view of delay in arrival.
Many international travelers catch domestic flights to their final destination from the port of entry, like New Delhi and Mumbai. They can get themselves tested for COVID19 before connecting onto domestic flights. Not all of them are able to get a RT-PCR test result within 72 hours of the scheduled VBM and air bubble flights to India, as per the Ministry of Home Affairs’ guidelines for exemption from institutional quarantine. Earlier, it was 96 hours prior to undertaking the journey from abroad. Now it is 72 hours as per the Government of India’ s revised guidelines issued on November 5, 2020.
Some people are facing issues while uploading the test result copy and other documents to the Air Suvidha portal of Delhi Airport. Some of the travelers complained of not receiving response, despite successful uploading of the test result, by the time they boarded the flight to or landed in India. They will surely benefit from onsite COVID19 tests at New Delhi IGI, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai airports.
“However, 6 hours of wait time for COVID test results at entry airports seems a disadvantage for senior citizens and family travelers with kids, especially after a jet lag of flying long-haul routes. The number of international arrivals will shot up if India’s talk with Singapore, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines becomes a success,” said the chief travel advisor of Indian Eagle, a leading travel-booking organization.
The idea of taking onsite COVID19 tests on arrival at entry airports in India is feasible for those who are likely to be found symptomatic in thermal screening at their final destination. Many tier II Indian airports have scrapped institutional quarantine only for asymptomatic travelers from abroad.