flydubai barred from flying passengers to Chennai till Jan 31

NEW DELHI: Tamil Nadu has barred UAE’s flydubai from flying in passengers to the state till the month-end after the budget carrier brought a Covid positive passenger to Chennai this Sunday (January 17).
The state government has also written to the Union aviation ministry to examine how this happened in violation of Tamil Nadu’s entry norms for those flying in from abroad, said senior officials.
This is perhaps the first instance of an Indian state barring a foreign airline from flying in people for violating its Covid rules.
Indian carriers have been barred a few times during the pandemic for varying periods of time by Hong Kong and UAE for inadvertently flying Covid positive passengers there. Saudi Arabia allows Indian carriers to only fly out people from there to India and not to the Kingdom.
UAE requires people flying in from several countries including India to undergo a Covid test 96 hours before their flight departure time and only those with negative reports are allowed to board flights for there. Chennai has a similar rule.
Additionally, there is testing on arrival in Dubai for those coming from India and many other countries.
“This person got a Covid test done from a certified lab in Chennai last Friday (Jan 15) and tested negative. He then travelled flydubai to Dubai. His on-arrival testing in Dubai gave a positive report,” said sources.
The passenger was then asked to quarantine himself as per rules, with the positive report uploaded on the app travellers to Dubai need to install on their smartphones.
“On January 17, this person went to Dubai Airport and showed his two day old negative report for being allowed to board a flydubai flight to Chennai. Since the report was from a test done within 96 hours before departure for Chennai, he was allowed to board the flight as per rules of Tamil Nadu,” said sources.
On arrival in Chennai this passenger reportedly cleared both immigration and health checks by showing his negative report.
“He was stopped at customs for baggage checks. To avoid the same, the passenger said he is Covid positive and showed his report from the test done on arrival in Dubai which was in his phone app. That is how it was known he was actually infected with the virus,” said sources.
The state government then barred flydubai from flying in passengers to Chennai from January 21 to 31, 2021, and has asked the Centre to examine this lapse. Aviation authorities are seeking clarification from flydubai, said an official.
The airline is yet to decide if it will operate flights to only fly out people from Chennai to Dubai in this period. It cancelled the Chennai flight on Friday.
Comments have been sought from flydubai and are awaited. It operates about 100 weekly flights between Dubai and 10 Indian cities including all the metros.
During the pandemic there have been several instances of airlines allowing boarding of passengers based on negative test reports and then those flyers testing positive on arrival during random or mandatory tests.
“We go as per rules and require passengers to show test reports as per the destination’s entry requirement. With tests needed to be done 96 to 48 hours before departure (different rules for different states and countries), there is a possibility that a person who was found negative in those tests giving a positive report in tests done on arrival. This is not something done internationally in a majority of such cases,” said a senior official of an Indian carrier.
The UAE had earlier decided not to accept test reports from certain labs in India with whom this discrepancy was found a lot.

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