On Friday, July 3, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation extended the suspension of international passenger flight operations until 11.59 pm on July 31. A week earlier, the DGCA had stated the ban on international flight operations will continue till July 15. However, this restriction will not apply to international cargo flights and flights specifically approved by the DGCA. Moreover, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis. While the domestic flight operations recommenced on May 25, international flight operations barring for repatriation flights remained suspended since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing COVID-19 spread.
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The Vande Bharat mission
Approximately 1,70,000 Indians have been repatriated under the aegis of the Vande Bharat Mission since May 6 while 2,75,000 have returned on chartered flights so far. On July 2, 2134 Indian nationals returned to the country from abroad. Flights from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Muscat, Moscow, Auckland, Chicago, San Fransisco, Bishkek, and Yerevan ferried back Indians to various parts of the country. Commenting on the possibility of resuming international air operations, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri stated that the domestic air traffic must reach about 50-60% and other countries should open up to international traffic without current conditionalities. He assured a calibrated decision would be taken when the situation evolved in that direction.
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Currently, there are 6,25,544 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in India out of which 3,79,892 patients have been discharged while 18,213 fatalities have been reported. There are 2,27,439 active COVID-19 cases in the country. On June 22, the DGCA revised its protocol for the management of airline crew during the COVID-19 crisis. Now, the risk assessment for the crew shall be done by the concerned airline doctor and the crew will be advised for COVID-19 testing according to the ICMR guidelines.
Based on the risk assessment, it will be determined whether the crew should be subjected to 14 days of home quarantine or not. However, home quarantine is mandatory for a crew member who comes in contact with a novel coronavirus case during flight operations. Such information will be shared with the Airport Health Organization for coordinating with the state government. Moreover, all crew members shall be advised to download the Aarogya Setu app for monitoring their health status.
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