Coronavirus grounds travellers

Coronavirus grounds travellers

The outbreak of the virus is causing passengers to panic. While travel agencies aren’t providing a refund, they are offering alternate destinations

Software engineer Gautami Tagare planned her trip to Thailand in November. She approached the travel agency Thomas Cook for the best prices and sealed the deal. Out for the Rs 40,000 for the whole trip, she has already paid half the amount to confirm her travel.

By the end of December and all of January, the scare of coronavirus took over the world and neighbouring countries of China were given a warning. International airports across the world started screening travellers to ensure the sick were given proper treatment.

Air India announced the cancellation of flights to China and Hong Kong until further notice and private carrier IndiGo suspended its flight till February 20. 

Those who were planning to travel are considering either cancelling their trips or postponing till things get better.

Gautami says, “We can see that the virus is a global issue and Thailand is considered under high alert. I didn’t want to travel in such a situation, but the airlines aren’t willing to consider a refund.”

She received a mail from the agency that the government has ensured a ‘safe to travel’ notice.

The information received from the travel agent as compared to the news said otherwise is causing scare and confusion among travellers. 

Balu Ramachandran, senior vice president of Cleartrip, tells Metrolife that they have observed a 30 to 60 per cent drop in bookings to China and some other countries in Southeast Asia since the news of coronavirus outbreak.

“Governments around the world, including India, are taking steps to restrict the further spread of the virus. The government has announced that the e-visa regime has been cancelled for travellers from China or those who have visited China in the recent past, and that they need to apply in person to come into India,” he adds. 

However, travel companies are willing to offer alternative travel plans for their customers.

Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head – Holiday, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, says, “We haven’t seen any significant spike in cancellation but we are offering them the option to defer their travel or choose from the range of alternative destinations or a future travel voucher enabling them to travel later as per their convenience.” The destinations include places such as France, Germany, Hungary, Russia, Georgia, Iceland, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius and Myanmar. 

Daniel D’souza, President and Country Head, Leisure, SOTC Travel, says, “We are focused on the safety of our customers and are recommending alternate destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jordan, Egypt, Mauritius, Srilanka and Seychelles. At SOTC Travel, the interest and security of our customers is of prime importance.”

Following strict protocols 

Cruises are also closely monitoring the global development regarding the virus outbreaks. They are focused on protecting the health and safety of the guests and crew alike. 

TIRUN, the Indian representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises, is denying boarding to any individual who has travelled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past 15 days.  Varun Chadha, CEO of the cruise company, says, “There will be mandatory specialised health screenings performed of anyone who holds passports of these countries. We will also deny entry to anyone who is running a fever or has
low blood oximetry.”

If a passenger or crew member falls ill while sailing, the protocol will include professional medical treatment, quarantine of unwell individuals from the generalship population and intensified ship cleaning, air filtration, and sanitisation procedures.

Airport screening is compulsory

There’s been a strict screening at the Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru for passengers coming from Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and transit passengers from China. 

The spokesperson of the BIAL answers commonly asked questions to Metrolife:

What’s the screening process like? 

All passengers from the above-mentioned countries are screened at the Aerobridge by the Airport Health Organisation and doctors from the State Health Department before they emerge into the terminal. Passengers, if found positive in the process of thermal scanning, are shifted to the designated hospital in the city by an EMRI-108 ambulance, and the process is followed by the State Health Department.

If a passenger is tested positive at the Airport, the impacted area will be sanitised and fumigated. The international arrival zone is sanitised/fumigated every six hours. Airlines have been making in-flight announcements regarding the virus with do’s and don’ts. Every passenger arriving from the above locations is expected to fill out a self-declaration form and submit this to the Airport Health Officer (APHO). The entire process is strictly monitored and reported to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare everyday.

What are the precautionary methods taken by the authorities? 

BLR Airport has taken the following actions to generate awareness:

Guidelines for interactions with flights and passengers from the impacted zones have been communicated with all agencies.

Dedicated awareness sessions have been conducted for the entire airport community.

Information has been posted across points at the airport where such passengers gather.

Posters — in the form of advisories — have been published across the arrival zone of the airport.

Advisories have been circulated via emails to employees.

Hand sanitisers have been placed at all arrival zones. Face masks have been made available at the airport pharmacy.

What are some of the things passengers need to keep in mind when travelling? 

Check on advisories issued by each of the countries and refer to the WHO guidelines.

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