Initially, the testing facility would be available only in Mumbai and Delhi
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Those indignant about many metro passengers' and public transport users' blatant refusal to wear masks or practise distanced seating, can heave a sigh of relief now. Too bad it applies only to a small fraction of India's population—the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Saturday issued a notice directing airlines to take strict action against such unruly passengers including deboarding them and putting them on a no-fly list.
According to the circular, "In case any passenger on board an aircraft refuses to wear mask or violates the COVID-19 protocol for passengers even after repeated warnings during the course of the flight, such passenger may be treated as ‘unruly passenger’ and the procedure in respect of handling such unruly passenger as provided in Civil Aviation Requirements shall be followed by the concerned airline."
After debilitating financial blows landed by the pandemic, airlines resumed operations in the last quarter of 2020. COVID-19 protocols were put into place including frequent disinfection of high-touch areas, fumigation, installation of filters, and mandatory wearing of face shields and masks for passengers.
Earlier this month, after seeing passengers on an Air India flight wearing their masks without covering their noses, Justice Hari Shankar had taken suo motu cognisance of the case and had the Delhi High Court direct DGCA to carry out frequent checks on whether mask-wearing was being done according to protocol.
Many passengers were seen with their masks covering barely their mouths or lowered down to the chin. Doing so after DGCA's latest ruling will constitute 'unruly passenger' activity which can be punished with being put on the no-fly list for durations ranging between two months and two years.
This move comes in the wake of COVID-19 numbers spiking in the country again after a brief lull in caseload increase. Saturday alone witnessed over 24,000 cases, the highest recorded spike in 2021 so far.
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