Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday said that the government had yet to reach a decision on restarting domestic and international flights after the 21-day lockdown to contain the coronavirus ends on April 14.
“The current lockdown on both domestic & international passenger flights is till April 15,” Puri wrote on Twitter. “A decision to restart the flights after this period remains to be taken. If required, we will have to assess the situation on a case by case basis.”
Puri said that airlines can start advance bookings on their own discretion but no directive has been issued by the government in this regard, Hindustan Times reported. “Now, what do the airlines do as a part of their contingency planning and to prepare for the future, it is entirely up to them,” he said, according to the newspaper.
The minister added that he is hoping that flights become operational from April 15. “As someone who is always an eternal optimist, I am hoping that from April 15, the flights can at least start, if not everything then in a calibrated manner,” Puri said.
Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Kharola said the government needs to examine the situation before flights can resume. “We can think of resuming international flights after the government examines the situation,” he said according to the newspaper. “Both the health and home ministries have to assess that the Covid-19 outbreak is under control in other affected countries before international flights become operational again.”
The government has extended the ban on international flights till April 14 amid the countrywide lockdown due to the coronavirus. All domestic flights have also been suspended till that date.
The nationwide lockdown to slow down the rapidly-spreading coronavirus was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24. All public places have been shut, transport services have been suspended and only essential services are being allowed to operate.
The number of coronavirus cases in India has risen to 2,301, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The disease caused by the coronavirus has killed 56 people in the country.