India Considering Lifting Domestic Flight Testing For Vaccinated Travelers

The Indian government is considering a proposal that would see pre-flight testing for domestic journeys done away with. Fully vaccinated individuals will instead be able to fly with just their vaccine certificates, which are now readily available. Let’s find out more about this proposal.

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The number of states requiring negative test reports during the second wave has quickly gone up. Photo: Getty Images

Big change

As India’s second wave slows down, the government has begun looking towards the future of domestic travel and tourism. One proposal under consideration is allowing fully vaccinated travelers (two doses) to fly domestically without taking tests.

In a statement seen in the Times of India, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri that the health, aviation, and other ministries are in talks over the proposal. However, implementing this proposal is not as straightforward as it seems.

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Could vaccine passports become the key to reopening domestic travel this summer? Photo: Getty Images

Every state in India has the power to set its own health requirements for entry. This means that the central government could have to convince all 28 states to accept fully vaccinated travelers and exempt them from testing. Mr. Puri alluded to the same in his remarks, saying, “Health is a state subject, and to ask passengers for a negative RT-PCR report before they enter a state is solely the right of that particular state.”

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Not enough

While giving fully vaccinated individuals the chance to travel domestically without testing seems like a good idea, it doesn’t help many. India has only given two doses of the vaccine to a paltry 3.5% of the population, meaning a vast majority have not been fully vaccinated. Only 14% of the population has even gotten its first dose, leaving most out of this plan.

Despite being a vaccine manufacturing powerhouse, India’s rollout has been slow and fraught with delays. While numbers have been rising in recent weeks, the country also decided to increase the gap between the two doses due to shortages, requiring 12-16 weeks before getting the second dose of the most-used Oxford-AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine.

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96% of the Indian population wouldn’t benefit from the testing exemption for now. Photo: Getty Images

For now, it’s going to take months before a critical mass of travelers receive their second doses. However, there is still a good reason to implement this policy: reducing the burden on test providers. As India battles high cases, testing those with symptoms should be the priority over those only testing for travel.

Not yet

While the government is considering easing restrictions, much of India remains under some degree of lockdowns. This means non-essential travel is limited, with popular cities curtailing the entry of tourists. Until cases recede further, we are unlikely to see states lift their entry conditions.

A few states have already begun accepting vaccine certificates in lieu of negative tests, opening the door to more doing to the same. Photo: Getty Images

However, once the second wave subsides, implementing a vaccine-based travel policy would help millions of travelers and reduce pressure on testing centers. If individual states will agree remains the question.

What do you think about the government’s proposal to reopen travel? Let us know in the comments!

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