Random and self-paid testing of international passengers arriving at the Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport from low-risk countries has become a major bone of contention between passengers and the airport authority and airlines.

Many passengers from low-risk countries, 2% of whom are randomly picked up for testing, not only refuse to pay for the test but also create ruckus. Almost every other day, one or the other passenger creates ruckus which has become a major headache for airport authority and airlines.

In one such case, a passenger coming from the Middle East, which is categorized as a low-risk region, was selected to give a sample for the Covid test at the airport. A source who witnessed the incident said, the passenger not only fought, he refused to pay Rs 2,700 for the test. The drama went on for 50 minutes. It was after much pleading and explanation that the passenger agreed to get the test done.

From December 1 the Union government has mandated Covid tests on 2% of the passengers from the low-risk countries for random Covid tests. While all the passengers coming from 12 high-risk countries are also tested, as per the rule.

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Since December 1, 34,000 passengers have arrived into the city via international flights. For the tests, passengers have to pay Rs 2,700 for rapid Covid test and Rs 400 for RT-PCR test that take 6 to 8 hours of time.

If a passenger coming from low-risk countries tests positive, he/she is isolated or admitted to the hospital. Health department teams are deputed at the airport 24×7, said officials. As per the plan, airport staff informs or selects random samples and health teams do the testing at the arrival. Even airlines suggest names since they are aware about the travel history of passengers.

All the passengers, whether coming from high risk or low-risk countries, have to pay for their test at the airport. However, many low-risk passengers do not want to pay for the test and also question their selection for random testing. Such incidents have become a regular affair at the airport, said a source close to the development.

Officials said those traveling from countries like Tanzania, Kuwait, Doha, and Dubai apart from other Middle East countries categorized as low-risk ones and those traveling in air bubble flights with a history of high-risk countries have to get tested on arrival. Many times, even immigration department also checks passengers’ travel history and suggests random tests on them.

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