After remaining shut for a full 63 days, Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri is all set to resume domestic air services from tomorrow, while it introduces new systems to maintain social distancing and follow other medical protocols, from entry to boarding flights.
Arrangements have been made for touch-free examination of passengers, including temperature screening, arriving from five different places of the country— Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Guwahati and Dibrugarh.
Following requests from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after cyclone Amphan hit southern Bengal, air services, which were scheduled to resume on 25 May, were deferred for tomorrow.
Darjeeling District Magistrate S Poonambalam, Siliguri Sub Divisional Officer Sumant Sahay and Darjeeling Chief Medical Officer of Health Pralay Acharya visited the airport and held a meeting with Airport Director Subrahmani P today to take stock of the situation and make necessary arrangements.
According to Mr Subrahmani P, Bagdogra Airport will handle 10 flights a day from tomorrow, and that the government will decide on increasing the number after 31 May.
He also said that Bagdogra Airport used to handle around 37 flights a day before the lockdown, while the number had gone up to 42 for the summer season from April, but the plan did not work because of the lockdown.
“We will handle 10 flights a day from tomorrow till 31 May. All arrangements have been made at the airport terminal and new gadgets introduced. The District Magistrate and other administrative officials held a meeting here today on proper arrangements. Passengers will be screened properly on arrival. They will also be advised to undergo a 14-day home quarantine,” he said.
Airport authorities have arranged for sanitization, from hands to shoes, of each passenger and their belongings before they enter the airport terminal, he added. State government officials will also closely monitor incoming and outgoing passengers at the airport, it is learnt.
Asked to comment, Siliguri SDO, Mr Sahay, said: “Passengers on arrival will have to fill in a self-declaration form and provide necessary information, including their home address and phone numbers. Passengers who do not display Covid symptoms will be advised for home quarantine for 14 days. A team will keep in constant touch with them over phone and take steps for medical assistance if necessary.”
“In case of suspected Covid-19 patients, they will be advised for institutional quarantine. A total of 6,000 people are in home quarantine in Darjeeling district. A team is monitoring them,” Mr Sahay added.
Notably, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today asked district officials to advise all migrants entering the state from five states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, to go for institutional quarantine for 14 days.
On the issue of returnees from Nepal in tea gardens to Siliguri sub-division areas, Mr Sahay said: “I need to verify how they have come from Nepal when the IndoNepal border has not yet opened. But returnees in tea gardens have been asked to stay under home quarantine for 14 days.”
Notably, several migrants have allegedly returned from Nepal to many tea gardens in India along the border over the past few days.
Secretary of the Tea Association of India (TAI), Terai Region, Sumit Ghosh, said: “The manager of the Matigara Tea Estate, Sougata Ghosh, today informed the district administration about three migrants-Amit Kharia, 40, Ravi Kharia, 42, and Shankar Kharia, 40, who have returned from Nepal. They were taken to the Matigara Health Centre today. Doctors have advised them for 14 days’ home quarantine.”