India's civil aviation regulator has advised airport operators to take punitive action by imposing 'spot fines' against passengers violating COVID-19 safety protocols. In a circular issued on Tuesday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, "The possibility of taking punitive action, such as levy of spot fines in accordance with law, shall also be explored with the local police authorities so as to serve a deterrent for violation of COVID-19 protocols."
Noting that during surveillance of some airports, "it has come to notice that compliance is not satisfactory", it said: "All airport operators, therefore, are requested to ensure that the instructions on COVID-19 protocol from the standpoint of wearing face masks properly, covering nose and mouth, as well as maintaining social distance norms within the airport premises are followed scrupulously."
Later in the day, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted: "Our fight against COVID continues. Advisory issued to all airports to ensure compliance of COVID19 protocol. People must wear face masks (covering nose & mouth) & maintain social distance. We are moving in direction of punitive action by police against passengers who don't comply."
On March 13, the DGCA, in a circular, said that air travellers not following Covid-19 protocol while travelling will be treated as "unruly passengers" and strict action would follow as per rules. The circular was issued that time after numerous complaints of laxity were received at airports by travellers in following COVID-19 protocols laid to prevent transmission of the virus and ensure safety in air travel. The strict adherence to COVID-19 protocol comes in the wake of increase in number of coronavirus cases in the country.
The Union government on Tuesday said the COVID-19 situation is turning from "bad to worse" and is a huge cause for worry, especially for some states, warning that the whole country is at risk and any complacency at this stage, and at any level, will have "heavy costs".