As Covid-19 numbers ease, Govt looks at scrapping Air Suvidha

As countries ease restrictions for international travellers, India is also considering doing away with the Air Suvidha requirement, which mandates people arriving from abroad to register before they fly into an airport here, government officials told The Sunday Express. However, the decision may be at least two months away as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare monitors the Covid-19 situation globally.

“We have written to the Health Ministry seeking removal of Air Suvidha requirements given that it could add to the convenience of flying as international traffic grows. But the Health Ministry has replied saying they will review the programme in August and decide on this,” a senior Civil Aviation Ministry official said.

The Air Suvidha portal was introduced in August 2020 as a mandatory self-reporting portal where incoming international passengers have to submit the details of their journey and their vaccination or Covid19 testing status.

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The pre-arrival registration portal also enables authorities to ascertain if a person is arriving from a high-risk region. Late last year, as the Omicron variant of Covid19 spread, the Union Health Ministry mandated submitting details such as previous 14 days of travel and uploading negative RT-PCR test reports on Air Suvidha portal before the journey to map if a passenger was arriving from any at-risk country.

However, at times passengers have complained of the portal not working and being denied boarding by airlines at foreign airports in absence of an Air Suvidha acknowledgement certificate. A traveller who boarded from Munich to Delhi recalled how she wasn’t allowed to check in at Munich airport unless she filled the Air Suvidha form and gave the airline the Air Suvidha number. “It took me an hour to get through the entire thing,” she said, adding that she almost missed her flight as a result of this.

E-mail queries sent to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare did not elicit a response.

As per latest official data, more than 75,000 international passengers have been arriving into Indian airports every day for the last month.

Several jurisdictions have a pre-arrival registration requirement that allows health authorities to conduct surveillance on potentially infected travellers. However, as international travel expands, some countries are scrapping this requirement.

Thailand, for example, is removing the need for international arrivals to register for a Thailand Pass with their vaccine certificate and a health insurance policy effective July 1. As per the new norms, passengers only have to show their vaccine certificates or negative Covid19 tests upon arrival at a Thai airport.

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