From Monday onward, India will start domestic flight services. While there still seems to some confusion regarding the use of Aarogya Setu app for boarding, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri on Saturday said that the app would not be compulsory for fliers and that a self-declaration form would also suffice.
The Standard Operating Procedure released by the Airports Authority of India had made the app compulsory for airline passengers. However, the minister said that those without the app could still board the flight if they could give a self-declaration form informing their COVID-negative status at the airport.
After the self-declaration, passengers need to undergo thermal screening. That part is not optional.
The issue, however, is further complicated. While the SOP had granted exemption to chiildren below the age of 14, it also said that all departing passengers must be registered on the app on their mobile phones and it will be verified by the CISF or the airport staff at the entry gate of the terminal building.
To this, the minister said that those without the app would also be able to travel on flights, adding that the SOP was just an advisory. "It is preferable to have the app but If you do not have the Aarogya Setu app, you can give a self-declaration form," he stated.
He went on to compare the app to a passport, claiming that having a clearance from the app would help passengers skip the quarantine period.
"If someone has Aarogya Setu app, it is like a passport. If you have green status, why should anybody want any quarantine," Puri said.
The app gives colour-coded designation to users as per their health status and travel history. It helps the user know if he or she is near anyone who has tested positive for the deadly virus.
The minister further clarified that those who do not the app can get tested for the virus two or three days before the flight's departure, get a medical certificate, and just fill in the form that he or she is COVID-19 negative.
However, he did urge passengers to have the app, stressing on quarantine factor: "If you have arogya Setu app, and if you have got yourself tested for COVID-19 and have been found negative, and if you do not show any symptoms, then I think there is no need for quarantine," he said.
Apart from the use of the app, the use of masks and gloves, and thermal screening of passengers will also be mandatory.
In the post-Covid world, flying is set to be an all-together different experience. With social distancing and personal sanitation norms in place, follwoing these norms will become very crucial to ensure a decent flying experience.