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Explained: How your travel by rail and air will change in COVID-19 times

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New Delhi, May 12: Travel post COVID-19 is not going to be as fun as it was. New health screening and safety measures will be put in place with reduced route networks.

Nearly two months after services were stopped due to the nationwide lockdown, the Indian Railways is resuming passenger train operations from Tuesday.

Representational Image

The railways opened bookings for passenger services on Monday with 15 trains a day connecting Delhi to Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and other big cities.

Train travel

  • There will be only 15 pairs of trains that will start plying, with just AC classes - bookings allowed up to 7 days in advance, with no Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC) or waitlisted tickets.
  • Not every seat will be available for booking in the passenger train to ensure social distancing and other norms to prevent COVID-19 spread.
  • These tickets would have details of the 'dos and don'ts' passengers need to follow -- such as arriving at the station at least an hour in advance for screening.
  • It is mandatory to use of masks and the Aarogya Setu mobile app.
  • It will be mandatory for travellers to wear face cover and undergo screening at departure and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the trains.
  • There would be no provision of 'tatkal' and 'premium tatkal' accommodation.
  • There will be very few stoppages during the journey.
  • No 'current booking' will be allowed.
  • Passengers travelling in these trains may not be given blankets and linen to reduce the chances of the spread of coronavirus.
  • There will be special norms for the air-conditioning inside the coaches and temperatures will be kept slightly higher than the usual and maximum supply of only fresh air will be ensured.

Coronavirus outbreak: India breaches 70,000-mark, records 87 new deaths due to COVID-19Coronavirus outbreak: India breaches 70,000-mark, records 87 new deaths due to COVID-19

Air travel

Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri has indicated that air travel will also resume before May 18.

  • Travellers will be asked to download the Aarogya Setu app mandatorily and the app will act as an e-pass for their travel.
  • It will be compulsory for the passengers to wear face cover and undergo screening at departure and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the flights.
  • It is expected that when the airlines restart their services, they will have to abide by social distancing norms by keeping every alternate seat vacant in passenger flights.
  • CNN-News 18 reports that a proposal has been made to not provide flight catering where the distance is not more than two hours.
  • The airlines are likely to begins operations from major routes like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, which are commercially more viable as compared to only shorter distance flights that would be restricted to green zones, which are mostly tier II and tier III cities.
  • People whose Aarogya Setu app is not 'green' are not to be allowed inside the terminal building.
  • Persons above 80 years will also be restricted in the first phase of resumption.

Ground reality

Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is the country's busiest - handling close to 7 crore passengers annually released a comprehensive list of guidelines and SOPs (standard operating procedures) for passengers and staff in anticipation of flight operations being restarted after the coronavirus lockdown is lifted. Flight operations will initially only be allowed in Terminal 3.

The measures, meant to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus, include marked areas outside and inside terminals and airport buses to ensure social distancing, widespread provision of hand sanitisers, thermal screening of all passengers and thorough disinfection of baggage carts/trolleys.

In addition, all passenger baggage will be passed through UV disinfection tunnels at both point of departure and arrival.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is responsible for the security of airports in India, has proposed, among other things, a sit and wait policy for the security clearance wherein a passenger will be called for a security check, rather than queueing up - the security check itself being conducted without any physical touch.

The CISF expects a delay of 5 to 7 minutes per passenger, which means reaching the airport more than a few hours ahead of the scheduled departure time.

Moreover, passengers, who have to necessarily wear face masks and gloves, will be allowed entry only after the thermal screening - after possibly passing through sanitisation tunnels at entry points, which will also be mandatory for crew and airport staff.

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