Fliers Fume Over SOP ‘Violation’ At Srinagar Airport

Srinagar International Airport – File Photo

Srinagar- As the deadly third wave of Coronavirus continues to tighten its grip over the Valley, the authorities at the Srinagar International Airport have allegedly failed to enforce Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) inside the premises, creating strong apprehensions among the fliers that any poor response in curbing the spread of virus can turn the airport into a Covid hotspot.

Several passengers who arrived in Srinagar on Wednesday also called the Srinagar airport a potential “Covid hotspot” and claimed that there are no provisions of preventing one’s self from contracting the virus at the airport.

More than a month after new guidelines came into effect at the Srinagar airport against the backdrop of the new Covid variant, domestic passengers continued to complain of chaos, crowding, no testing and mask-less movement inside the airport premises.

Mir Mubaris, a 27-year old student, who returned to Srinagar from Bangalore, told Kashmir Observer on Thursday that if the Airport authority continues to maintain its disdain against the virus then there’s absolutely no denial in the fact that Srinagar Airport can be a new covid hotspot.

“Since the Delhi airport had strictly enforced Covid SOPs, I thought there would be the same procedure at the Srinagar airport,” he said.

“However, on reaching, there was absolutely no social distance being followed and the passengers were roaming inside the premises without a mask, that too, in front of the airport officials” he added.

Lamenting on the ‘brazen’ conditions inside Kashmir’s only civilian airport, Mubaris said that, “All the passengers who were collecting their luggage from the conveyor belt were not following any social distance. Even the officials who were standing there were clearly not interested in asking the passengers to follow SOPs…. It’s worse than a train station inside. We all could be infected because of the crowd.”

Notably, under the new guidelines issued by the Government of India, all passengers have to strictly follow Covid protocols including social distancing and masking. Passengers will also have to undergo a Covid test before leaving the airport.

Sarah, an entrepreneur who reached Srinagar on Tuesday, said that she had never seen such scenes at the airport.

“As soon as our flight from Delhi landed in Srinagar, many passengers removed their masks and no official from the airport expressed any resentment towards such stupidity,” she said.

“We’re asked to register ourselves at the covid testing counter inside the airport but to our surprise, there were already a crowd of passengers from some other flight who were not following any social distancing and many were not even wearing their masks properly,” she said.

She further added, “Officials were not interested in asking them to follow SOPs. Not a single official was looking worried by such a brazen violation of covid norms. It looked like a Covid hotspot. Nobody was following social distancing…There are only three counters and all of them are full of people.” she said.

Director, Srinagar International Airport, Kuldeep Singh refuted the allegations of returnees and said that the authorities will never compromise on the safety of passengers and will do everything to contain the spread of the virus.

“The airport officials are continuously making announcements and requesting passengers to follow covid SOPs. No one is allowed to enter the airport without a mask and if someone is found violating the covid norms then s/he will be fined rupees 500,” Singh said.

He further added, “If anyone is raising these false allegations against the Airport authority, then that person should be dealt with strictly under the provisions of law.”

The passengers have also raised a serious alarm on the testing mechanism inside the Srinagar airport. As per the passengers, the Airport authority has decided to test only those who are yet to take their first or second covid jab, rest all can leave the Airport with an officially issued stamp on their hands.

“I wanted to get a regular antigen test done as I’d some symptoms but I was told that I don’t need any testing as I’m double vaccinated,” a passenger who wished not to be named told Kashmir Observer.

“I’d literally plead with the officials to allow me to get tested. I knew the situation was bad but didn’t expect this. The airport was like a circus. By what scientific explanation can the airport officials allow the double vaccinated passengers to leave the airport? What if they’re covid positive. What if they act as covid spreaders? He asked.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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