Bringing down the rate of the rapid PCR test, collecting samples before immigration clearance and ensuring passengers pre-book their tests: the city airport has taken several measures to reduce the waiting time for Covid screening for international passengers.
Since December 1, all passengers from countries enlisted as ‘at risk’ for prevalence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus are being tested for Covid on arrival.
At Kolkata airport, many passengers have alleged that they had to wait for up to eight hours to get their test results. The waiting hall, according to them, is overcrowded and lacks amenities.
“We have brought some changes to reduce the waiting time. One of the important factors is the reduced rate for the rapid PCR test. Now, most passengers are taking the (rapid) test, for which the waiting time is not more than two hours,” said C. Pattabhi, Kolkata airport director.
The rate for the rapid PCR test has been reduced from Rs 4,000 to Rs 2,900, said Pattabhi.
On Sunday, 189 passengers who arrived on an Air India flight from London took the rapid PCR test and only 20 opted for the regular RT-PCR test. The result of the regular test comes after around six hours.
On other international flights, 133 passengers had arrived on Sunday from countries enlisted as ‘at risk’. Of them, 94 took the rapid PCR test.
Jayeeta Bhattacharya was one of passengers who had arrived from London.
“I had pre-booked my test. I think 90 per cent of the passengers had pre-booked their tests and so the queue was moving fast,” she said.
“The swab sample was collected before the immigration clearance. So, I had to wait for barely an hour to get my test result,” she said.
The experience of several passengers who had arrived earlier was different.
Businessman Mohammed Bhutto Khan arrived on December 2 from Spain via Dubai.
“The journey from Spain to Kolkata was tough because of the long wait at the Dubai airport. On top of that, we had to wait at the Kolkata airport for six hours to get the test result,” said Bhutto. He was travelling with wife and two sons of three and seven years.
The airport authorities said now that the waiting time had been reduced, only a few people were facing such problems.
“Initially, not many were pre-booking the test. Now, we have requested the airlines to inform passengers about the facility. Most passengers now pre-book their tests,” said Pattabhi.
He said QR codes had been installed in the baggage claim and immigration clearance areas. Someone who has not pre-booked his or her test could do so and make payments while waiting in the queue.