India Reopens Domestic Flights, COVID-19 Cases Take Off

  • Puri said airlines would be allowed to operate at about a third of their flight capacity. 
  • India reported the biggest daily spike in the spread of COVID-19 infections that same day.
  • There is concern rainy season will add to the burden of medical staff and health services in handling the COVID-19 virus.

Despite a positive surge in COVID-19 cases, domestic air travel in India will reopen starting May 25, after a two-month lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus. “All airports and airlines are told to be ready to operate again from May 25,” said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Twitter.

The first case of the COVID-19 pandemic in India was reported on 30 January 2020, originating from China. As of 21 May 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have confirmed a total of 112,359 cases, 45,300 recoveries (including 1 migration) and 3,435 deaths in the country.

However, there are no indications of the re-opening of international flights. Puri said airlines would be allowed to operate at about a third of their flight capacity. All airlines must obey the ticket price guidelines issued by the Indian civil aviation authority when restarting some domestic flights.

The Indian government suspended all domestic flights, carrying 144 million passengers and cargo throughout the country, on March 25. A few days earlier, the government suspended international flights.

Meanwhile India’s inter-state railroad network— which usually carries more than 20 million passengers a day— resumed operations a week ago. Starting June 1, the Indian government will also add train services for passengers to 100 trains with a capacity of 200 passengers, operating to and from big cities and several smaller cities.

Indian Railways made the announcement on Wednesday night. Online ticket reservations have started from today.

Coronavirus Cases Jump, Government Hospitals Overwhelmed

The announcement was made the same day when the country of 1.3 billion people reported the biggest daily spike in the spread of COVID-19 infections, with 5,611 new cases being recorded in 24 hours. The total infected with the COVID-19 virus in India is now 106,750 people. The financial center of Mumbai is the city most severely hit by the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus distribution, according to government statistics.

Official reports say more than 3,300 people have died in India due to COVID-19. However, it is thought that the unofficial figure is much higher than the data. A quarter of the fatalities recorded came from locations in Mumbai and surrounding areas. Other major cities, such as New Delhi and Ahmedabad, also suffered heavy impacts from coronavirus outbreaks.

Authorities in Mumbai are seeking help in the form of thousands of patient beds from private hospitals because the epidemic has overwhelmed hospitals in the city of 20 million people. “A plan is under consideration to take over 80 percent of beds in private hospitals, which were originally prepared for non-COVID cases,” Mumbai City spokeswoman Vijay Khabale-Patil told AFP.

Hardeep Singh Puri is an Indian politician, former diplomat who is the current Civil Aviation Minister of India and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in India. He is a 1974 batch Indian Foreign Service officer who served as the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013.

Many patients who are exposed to the coronavirus report sleeping on the streets outside the hospital, waiting for delivery to get a bed. Authorities say it is necessary to increase to 5,000 more beds for critically ill patients. Mumbai built an emergency field hospital, and turned several public buildings into quarantine facilities, including a 19th-century horse racing venue, a sports stadium used to host last year’s NBA games, and a planetarium.

Disease in the Rainy Season Haunts

There is concern that the rainy season next month, and the spread of endemic diseases, such as dengue fever, will add to the burden of medical staff and health services in handling the COVID-19 virus. The capital of New Delhi, which has a population of more than 20 million people, was also badly affected. Now the city has recorded more than 10,000 positive cases of the coronavirus.

The authorities confirmed 160 deaths due to COVID-19. According to media reports that cite official burial records, the death toll is actually estimated to be at least three times the official number reported by the government.

The largest city in the state of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, has recorded 8,945 positive coronavirus cases, with around 600 COVID-19 fatalities. Experts predict that the epidemic will worsen in major cities over the next month, and the transmission of the coronavirus is expected to peak in June or July.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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