India relaxes domestic flights; phase 4 unlock Sep 1

By Eudore R. Chand

NEW DELHI 30 August 2020: India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation has announced wide-ranging relaxations in the operations of domestic flight services, which will bring relief to passengers arriving from Gulf airports and on long-haul international flights.

An order issued by Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary in the ministry, directed airlines to resume meal services on domestic flights with immediate effect. This supercedes the ministry’s order since May 21 that “airlines shall not provide meal services on board.”

The ban had put arriving international passengers on flights repatriating Indians from the Gulf and other airports worldwide to considerable inconvenience. Because meals were scarce on those flights, and because most eating facilities at airports in India have been closed since the lockdown since March to contain Coronavirus, passengers often had to go hungry if they were connecting to domestic destinations after arriving at international airports, said official news agency Wam.

This had complicated travel in particular for accompanying children and for passengers with co-morbidities which made them vulnerable to Covid-19 infections. Although exceptions were made on health grounds, implementing those exceptions was not easy on most Indian carriers for operational reasons.

The Joint Secretary’s latest order will be implemented with a range of conditions. Only disposable trays, cutlery and crockery will be allowed for in-flight meal services. Airline crews are required to wear new sets of protective gear on their hands before each meal or beverage service.

In-flight entertainment will be made available on domestic flights with severe restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

India to enter Unlock Phase-4 on 1st September

India’s central government last night banned state governments from arbitrarily imposing local lockdowns without approval from New Delhi.

States governments will, however, be free to impose lockdowns in their territories which have high infection rates of Covid-19 and are designated as containment zones.

Several states have in recent weeks imposed lockdowns on entire cities within their jurisdictions or ordered shutdowns in activities during weekends. These will no longer be allowed without prior consultation with and approval of the central government.

The decision is part of new guidelines issued tonight by the Ministry of Home Affairs here for Unlock Phase-4, which will go into effect from 1st September. Metro train services in cities will be allowed to resume operations from 7th September under the new guidelines.

Sports, social and religious functions will be permitted with a limit of 100 people from 21st September. Schools and institutions of higher learning will continue to be closed until 30th September.

Open air theatres will be permitted to open from 21st September. However, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks and enclosed theatres will not reopen till the end of next month. Regular commercial international flights will not resume for now.

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