West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee plans to write to the central government, asking it to delay flight arrivals to Kolkata at least till May 30. The centre has announced plans to resume limited domestic air travel from Monday.
The state government has already written to the Railway Board, asking it not to send any migrant trains till May 36 in view of the extensive damage caused to infrastructure by Cyclone Amphan.
Speaking at a news conference at her office on Saturday, Ms Banerjee said, “I will write to the centre to ask them to send flights till May 28 to Bagdogra airport. I will appeal to the centre not to send flights to Kolkata at least till May 30.”
The Chief Minister pointed out practical difficulties at Kolkata, including the fact that the airport was located in North 24 Parganas district which is seriously affected by COVID-19.
“Not everyone landing at the airport will have personal transport. How will they go home? There is a lockdown going on. Some people will have cars but not everyone so that’s a problem,” Ms Banerjee said.
For migrants who will arrive after May 26, Ms Banerjee said they should give an undertaking that they will remain in home quarantine in the villages for 14 days.
“Some villages have set up their own quarantine centres where people are being made to stay and being given food. That is a very good plan,” Ms Banerjee said. “Or they could simply stay in their own homes,” she added.
The health department would monitor their movements by tracking their mobile phone numbers. All migrants would have to register with the government.
Migrants would also be tested for COVID-19 but not at the railway stations upon arrival. Instead, they will be tested in their home district within a few days of arrival.
“There is no need for the extra stress of being tested at railway stations. It takes time to do the swab test for COVID-19. At least five minutes each. So testing so many people at a railway station is very time-consuming,” Ms Banerjee added.
The procedure that air travellers will have to follow is likely to be the same once the centre and the state agree on a date when flights can begin to land in Bengal.
“We have not even been given two-three days’ time to handle the situation. We have suffered the cyclone and for flights and migrants to arrive at a time like this, makes things very difficult for us,” she said.