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Covid-19 – Who let the cat out?

Covid-19 – Who let the cat out?
April 10
13:19 2020

A.Q. Siddiqui

A Washington Post report says Coronavirus have grounded airline industry all over the world. But, as a matter of fact, it is the aviation industry that winged spread of Corona virus all over the world. Why it was not checked in time and why restrictions were not imposed? Who let the cat out? No, doubt Airline industry shall be blamed for the spread of virus everywhere.

It was in December when first Corona virus cases were reported from Wuhan and soon the infection started spreading from neighboring East Asia to Japan, Malaysia and South Korea. The world Aviation took it lightly. There were no health checks on arrival at any world airport. The initial response by world Aviation authorities to this threat was less than desired. Very few countries mandated checks for passengers coming from China or who had been to China since December.

When West African virus Ebola or Zika were reported, many countries screened passengers on arrival. Zika virus screening counters are still existing in Indian airports. Why was Corona taken so lightly and why suddenly it has been taken so seriously all over the world?

It was on March 13, US President Trump announced sweeping restrictions on travel from European countries but, then it was too late. The infected tourists, citizens and visitors have already got into US. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also announced suspension of International operations from its airports from March 15 for 2 weeks. International flights continued in and out of India till March 22. A large number of travelers entered into India from Middle East, particularly from newly affected UAE.

The Indian government also rescued its citizens from China and Iran. A decision widely questioned in social media. Were these Indians quarantined for 21 days or allowed leaving for home with regular screening?

On March 18, Indian government extended restrictions for passengers arriving from Turkey, United Kingdom and whole of Europe. The ban included Indian passport holders as well. A week earlier, Indian Government has restricted foreign passport holders, including OCI card holders from entering into India. Both were very smart but belated decisions. Had the government taken this decision in February, checked all arriving passengers who had been to China, Iran or Italy, even transit travelers from the affected countries, it would have cornered the Corona in time.

From March 23, all international flights were suspended till March 29 to and from India. However, the 21 days nationwide lockdown covered international flight operations as well. Again, this decision lacked expertise.

While it hit hard on already a crippled economy, it let thousands of foreign passport holders staying back in India. The Indian Government could well have allowed outgoing traffic where ever possible and continue restrictions for entry into India. Airlines willing to do one-way traffic could have eased the burden of keeping foreigners in India. Qatar Airways has specially announced that it will carry passengers to their homes.

Now Germany is sending Lufthansa special flights for uplifting its nationals from India. US is also planning uplifting citizens from Delhi. Why not assign Air India to operate daily flights from Delhi to US with a higher fare? Air India keeps its fare less than $1000 for most part of the year. If they charge, $2000 they can uplift stranded US citizens back home.

Again, the Jamat Markaz Nizamuddin event raises the same question, “Who let the cat out?”. When so many attendees were found in Markaz and also in a Delhi Gurdwara, how they were let go to their home states when there is nationwide lockdown. How did they travel from Delhi to Telangana, Tamil Nadu or AP? All trains, buses and movement within cities is stopped. Then how did these Markaz attendees reach their homes? Often a small lapse on part of an authority causes irreparable damage.

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