Delhi Airport Begins Offering COVID-19 Tests For International Departures

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Delhi Airport is now expanding COVID-19 testing to departing international travelers. Passengers can now be tested at the airport and receive their results within 4-6 hours. Airport testing will be key in helping India avoid bans for carrying too many positive passengers.

Delhi Airport Departure
International departure passengers can now take COVID tests too. Photo: Getty Images

Expanded testing

Delhi Airport first opened its COVID-19 testing facility in September, offering RT-PCR tests to international arrivals. A negative test on arrival can allow passengers to skip institutional quarantine and home-quarantine for 14 days instead.

This week, the facility has been expanded to allow outbound international passengers to get tests as well. With most countries needing pre-flight tests, airport testing is a convenient way for passengers to meet the requirement. The results of the test will be available within 4-6 hours, a fairly quick processing time.

Delhi Airport Testing
Previously the testing facility was only open to returning passengers. Photo: Delhi Airport

If passengers need a negative test before flying, they will need to arrive at the airport at least 7 hours in advance, according to India Today. Most countries have this requirement, which means it might be easier to get tested before the flight. For any country that only needs negative results on arrival, passengers have to ensure they take the test at least 6 hours before landing.

Government price control means the tests are available for ₹2,400 ($33), a much lower price compared to other airports around the world. The quick processing time and low cost could mean more passengers opt to get tested at the airport in the coming months.

A solution to India’s problem?

India has been in the news for the last few months for carrying too many positive passengers, despite strict pre-flight testing requirements. Air India has been banned from Hong Kong three times, while Saudi Arabia shut flights altogether. Dubai has gone a step further and blacklisted select labs that have unreliable tests.

This problem has been chalked up to India’s high overall cases (which has come down drastically in the last few weeks) and possibly unreliable test results. Most airlines offer a 96-hour window to be tested before the flight, but passengers could well be infected after taking the test.

Delhi Airport Air India
Air India has repeatedly found itself in hot water for carrying too many COVID positive passengers. Photo: Getty Images

Simple Flying previously noted that a possible solution would be quick airport testing. While rapid tests, which give results within minutes, are still not available, airlines could ask passengers to be tested at the airport itself. This would remove the risk of infection after taking the test and offer more confidence to travelers.

Delhi now joins Mumbai as the second airport offering tests to all international passengers. The pair are the busiest international airports in India and we could see more airports offer the service if they see demand.

Is this the new normal?

IATA has long been pushing for airports to adopt testing and establish a global standard for testing. This would allow flights to restart and ensure passenger confidence while flying, an important step to help airlines recover. Pre-flight testing could well become the new normal until a vaccine is widely available.

Garuda A330 Mask livery
IATA has long been pushing for a global pre-flight testing standard. Photo: Garuda Indonesia

Passengers flying from Delhi will benefit from the new testing facility and we might even see airlines also pushing passengers toward airport testing. It’s likely that testing becomes a part of international travel, and making the process as seamless as possible is important.

Do you see a benefit to pre-flight testing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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