India has moved to ban medical evacuation flights over fears that the ultra-rich may use them for non-essential travel. These types of services take place when patients are critically ill or need access to specific resources that are not available where they are. India, currently amid a lockdown, has a ban on all commercial flights as it tries to contain the virus’ spread.
Fears of rich playing the system
India placed a ban on all domestic and international flights at the end of March to slow the virus’ spread. The ban has left many stranded away from home and without a way to travel, even for emergencies. However, it seems the some of the super-rich may have been using a loophole to continue flying.
The flight ban only extends to passenger flights, meaning cargo and medical flights can still operate. However, India’s recent ban on these medical evacuation flights is based on fears that the rich are using these planes for non-essential travel. While no instances of this have been made public yet, this could lead to a shortage of medical planes for those who need it.
Nearly all passenger flights have been canceled, minus repatriation flights, but some airlines are still in the air. A number of Indian airlines are operating all-cargo flights to transport essential supplies within India and from other countries.
Tightening of regulations
India’s ban on medical evacuation flights will mean anyone in genuine need for such a flight will need to jump through several hurdles. In order to take such a flight, it must be proven that treatment cannot be provided at the origin. After that, permission must be granted by the local authorities, the aviation ministry, and the aviation regulator, before the flight.
These tight regulations will ensure no one is able to take these flights for non-medical reasons but may also slow down a very time-sensitive mission. As the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow in India, we might see more of these planes in the sky to treat critical patients. Many of these planes also carry critical medical professionals and supplies to smaller cities, which lack these specialists and resources.
The coming weeks and months will likely see more medical evacuation flights taking place as the coronavirus continues to spread. Proactive measures by the government will ensure these planes are not being misused. However, it is also important to ensure that these measures do not become a hinderance in a life-and-death situation.
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