Covid SOPs thrown to winds at Srinagar Airport

Representational Photo

Even as the Covid lockdown continues to remain enforced across Jammu and Kashmir, passengers in large numbers were seen violating the Covid19 SOP and guidelines at Srinagar International Airport on Saturday.

Several travellers told Greater Kashmir that chaotic scenes were witnessed at the airport, after hundreds of passengers were seen openly “violating the Covid19 protocol” at Srinagar Airport.

“There was huge rush of passengers who did not maintain any social distancing or gap at the airport. There was complete mismanagement,” a traveller wishing not to be named said.

Another traveller said some of the passengers were not even wearing facemasks properly and alleged that officials at the airport did take any preventive measures for crowd control.

Pictures of the airport went viral on social media and triggered massive outrage against the authorities for “failing to take action”.

Director Srinagar Airport, Santosh Dhoke told Greater Kashmir that the incident occurred at 9am when announcements on the public address system were made for passengers’ boarding.

“As a result of the Covid19 outbreak, the passenger load has decreased which is causing cancellation of 3 to 4 flights daily at the airport. Few airlines had cancelled their morning flight on Saturday and accommodated all the passengers in a single flight,” Dhoke said.

Dhoke said soon after passengers of one flight were accommodated in another flight, “the announcement was made by airline operators which created panic among passengers and everyone rushed towards the boarding point”.

Dhoke said the crowd control took place within five minutes as the CISF and Airports Authority officials swung into action and disbursed the passengers. “Our officials are encouraging passengers to follow Covid19 guidelines and SOPs,” Dhoke said.

It may be recalled that amid the rising number of Covid-19 positive cases among the travellers, a 4-member Airport Premises Committee (APC) had been formed at the Srinagar International Airport to ensure that Covid-19 guidelines are followed by the flyers. As per an order issued by the Director, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Srinagar the APC comprising of two officials of the AAI, one Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel and one official from a private airline company had been asked to ensure that passengers travelling at the Srinagar Airport wear the protective facemask and follow social distancing.

The terminal building, where the passengers check-in and check-out, and the apron area, where an aircraft is parked at the Srinagar Airport are controlled by the AAI.

The airport witnesses operations of  almost 40 commercial flights every day and has seen almost 10 lakh passenger footfall between December 2020 and March 2021.  As per AAI data, the annual footfall of passengers at Srinagar is expected to increase from the current 3 million passengers to 5.2 million passengers per annum.