TN opposes flight operation in State till end of May

With the spike in COVID-19 cases weighing heavily upon it, the Tamil Nadu government has come out against resumption of domestic flights connecting cities in the State, till the month-end, and may take up the matter with the Centre, an official said on Friday.

With the Union Civil Aviation Ministry gearing up to resume the services from Monday, Tamil Nadu hopes that the plans will be deferred. The Tamil Nadu government has asked the Centre not to restart domestic flights till May 31, when the nationwide lockdown imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus is scheduled to end.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation had announced on Wednesday that some domestic flights will begin to operate from May 25. Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K Shanmugam said, “We cannot handle the passengers.”

“They are talking about 60 flights a day, which means 12,000 passengers a day. All of them must be tested and put into institutional quarantine as per protocol. For that, we will require two lakh quarantine facilities. Testing 12,000 passengers a day is impossible.”

On whether the state can allow other airports in Tamil Nadu to function, if not Chennai, officials said: “No, because a bulk of passengers would be Chennai-bound and we have yet to make transport arrangements to bring them to Chennai.”

Tamil Nadu also requires to quarantine those arriving from other cities, though Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri yesterday downplayed the need for quarantining after short flights.

Chennai did receive special flights earlier this month. Two Air India Express flights from Dubai brought home 356 Indians stranded overseas and a few passengers tested positive for the virus.