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Suspend breath analyser test: Pilots association urges DGCA amid COVID-19 threat

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Mumbai, Apr 22: The Federation of Indian Pilots (FIP) on Thursday urged aviation regulator DGCA to temporarily suspend breath analyser (BA) tests for aviation personnel with immediate effect to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.

pilots

The FIP claims to represent around 5,000 pilots. In a letter to Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Arun Kumar, the FIP said that these testing machines are often used on multiple individuals, some of whom may be infected without showing any symptoms.

During the pandemic last year also, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had temporarily suspended BA tests for all aviation personnel due to similar concerns.

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"In the light of the unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide, it is requested that Breath Alcohol Tests for aviation personnel are temporarily suspended across your jurisdiction, with immediate effect, to prevent the spread of infection - as was done by your office last year during the onset of the first wave of the pandemic," FIP President Surinder Mehta said in the letter.

The copies of the letter have also been marked to Civil Aviation Minister, Secretary, Civil Aviation, and Ministry of Health as well as Director General, ICMR, among others. As per the rules, all aviation personnel such as pilots, ground handling staff and air traffic controllers have to undergo breath analyser (BA) tests from time to time.

The test is conducted by blowing into a tube to ensure the crew has not consumed alcohol. The FIP said that some of the factors that could aggravate the Covid-related risks include viability of the coronavirus on BA testing equipment, each of which are often used on multiple individuals, and many of whom could now be asymptomatically infected.

Open air disposal of potentially infected blow tubes in the testing area, by some operators could also amplify the risk of spreading the virus, it said, adding that unmasking of aircrew while undergoing the BA test and consequent dangers of exposure to virus laden aerosols (especially since the virus has now been proven to be airborne) could also spread the virus further.

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Besides, inadequately sanitised and poorly ventilated testing rooms, resulting in virus laden touch points and surfaces also poses a risk, FIP said. The critical role played by aircrew to run this strategically important industry, especially for the expedient transportation of medical supplies and vaccines, makes it imperative that every preventive measure is now taken to stop the rapid spread of the disease amongst aircrew and to ensure the smooth running of flight operations in public, commercial and national interest, Mehta stated in the letter.

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