Coronavirus News Asia

Confusion as Indian domestic flights restart

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Domestic flights resumed in India on Monday even as coronavirus cases surge, while confusion about quarantine rules prompted jitters among passengers and the cancelation of dozens of planes.

India had halted all flights within the country, and departing and leaving for abroad, in late March as it sought to stop the spread of coronavirus with the world’s largest lockdown.

But desperate to get Asia’s third-largest economy moving again, the government announced last week that about 1,050 daily flights – one-third of the usual capacity – would resume on Monday.

Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said strict rules would include mandatory mask-wearing and thermal screenings, although middle seats on the aircraft would not be kept empty.

The announcement reportedly caught airlines and state authorities off-guard, with several local governments announcing that passengers would have to go into quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

Maharashtra, the Indian state with the highest number of coronavirus cases, capped at 50 the number of departures and arrivals in and out of its capital Mumbai.

Airlines scrapped dozens of flights on Monday while hundreds of passengers canceled their bookings, reports said.

The NDTV news channel said 82 flights to and from New Delhi had been canceled and nine at Bangalore airport.

Other flights from cities including infection hotspots Mumbai and Chennai were struck off, many at short notice, reports said.

At Mumbai airport, social distancing was forgotten as irate passengers harangued staff after their flights were canceled at the last minute.

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