Police have arrested one Mumbai Airport staffer and two accomplices over a quarantine-skipping scam. The staff member was reportedly taking ₹4,000 ($55) from passengers wishing to skip institutional quarantine and forging entry documents. Mumbai added new mandatory quarantine rules in December following the spread of new strains of COVID-19.
According to the Times of India, the police arrested a sub-engineer working at Mumbai Airport along with two of his accomplices. The investigation was part of a scam that saw airport staff taking ₹4,000 ($55) from each passenger to allow them to skip the required seven-day institutional quarantine.
The police also seized ₹1,40,000 ($1913), 200 Saudi Riyals, a fake rubber stamp used to certify home quarantine for arriving passengers, and doctor’s notes. The items seized likely mean that the scammers were using fake stamps to certify passengers as being eligible for home quarantine.
In December, Mumbai added strict new quarantine rules in light of the new UK strain of COVID-19. The restrictions see all passengers arriving from Europe and the Middle East required to undergo seven days of hotel quarantine (at their own expense) along with a negative test at the end of the stay. This is followed by seven more days of home quarantine.
The only exemption to this rule is if there has been an immediate death in the family or for late-stage pregnant women.
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The sub-engineer arrested works for another government office but was transferred to Mumbai Airport to deal with the influx of travelers following the new rules. He had worked there since December 23rd and checked passengers from Dubai, Kuwait, and the US. This opened up the chance to collect bribes from fliers.
Considering the amount of money seized, it is possible that dozens of people were able to skip institutional quarantines wrongfully. The police are now investigating the matter and checking if other officials were involved.
Quarantine rules vary across airports in India depending on the destination, making it important to check the rules before flying. Currently, Mumbai has the strictest rules across the country.
International flights slow to recover
While India’s domestic market has rebounded relatively well, international flights have not been so lucky. Border restrictions in India and abroad mean only a handful of travelers can fly these days, although tourist destinations like Male and Dubai have seen high demand.
However, the emergence of the new UK strain of COVID-19 has caused traffic to drop once again. Since then, flights from the UK, usually a bustling market, have been cut in half and demand has fallen heavily.
However, India has also begun rolling out two COVID-19 vaccines across the country this week, raising hopes of a recovery across the aviation industry. While traffic could take years before reaching 2019 levels, the next few months will see strong growth compared to 2020.