Why scrapping Air Suvidha will provide relief to passengers … – The Indian Express

Starting Tuesday (November 22), passengers travelling to India no longer need to fill forms and upload negative RT-PCR tests on the government’s Air Suvidha portal. The doing away of this pre-embarkation requirement is likely to come as a relief for international fliers. It is in sync with the times, as Covid-19 has entered an endemic stage mainly on the back of vaccination coverage.
The Air Suvidha portal was launched in August 2020 through which international passengers had to mandatority submit details of their journey and Covid vaccination or testing status. The pre-arrival self-registration portal also enabled authorities to ascertain whether a person was arriving from a high-risk region.
Late last year, as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 spread, the Union Health Ministry mandated submitting details on the portal, including passengers’ 14 day travel history and negative RT-PCR test reports to map if the traveller was arriving from an ‘at-risk’ country.
There was no pushback when Covid infections were rising, international passenger numbers were low, and there was a risk of India importing a new variant of the virus from abroad.
However, when the number of international passengers started to increase after India lifted its two-year ban on regular international flights on March 27, 2022, the travel requirement was seen as an impediment by many. A part of the reason was that the system was not able to cope with the increased number of international passengers after regular international flights were restored.
Travellers complained of not being able to upload Covid negative certificates, and that it took hours for passengers to get an Air Suvidha acknowledgment certificate, which was mandated for travel. Systems were updated but that was not enough to ease the pain of fliers.
A plea was made around the time regular international flights started in March and was pursued seriously only around June. There was a divide within the government too over the issue of its abolition. While the Aviation and Tourism ministries were of the view that the requirement should be abolished, the Health ministry was reluctant and favoured its continuation since there was a risk of India importing new variants.
Requests by the Tourism and Aviation ministries were not accepted in June, but the ministries were assured that a review would be done around August to abolish the Air Suvidha requirement.
The abolition of Air Suvidha is the last Covid restriction to go.
Last week, the government removed the mandatory requirement of wearing face masks on board aircraft. India’s Covid-era restrictions included limiting the number of domestic flights, ban on regular international flights, fare restrictions, no meal service on board, etc. The path towards bringing normalcy in the aviation sector took flight primarily after Jyotiraditya Scindia took charge as Aviation minister in July 2021.
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mihir mishraMihir MishraMihir Mishra is Deputy Associate Editor with the Indian Express and wr… read more


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