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Steps to take if you are travelling to Kashmir by air in COVID times

Days after resumption of air travel, Kashmiris stuck away from their home continue to be confused.

There are some steps you can take and things you can keep in mind while travelling from other places to Jammu and Kashmir.

Before setting off for the airport, check the following: Your air ticket, boarding pass (web check in), your identity card and Arogya Setu Application on your phone.

If you are travelling from outside India, expect thermal checks that reduces coming in contact with the other person/airport staff physically.

At the Sheikh ul-Alam International Airport, Srinagar you will have to go from one counter to another. If you are travelling with kids, the procedure would be the same for them as you. While both nasopharyngeal (NP) specimen and oropharyngeal (OP) specimens are collected by the healthcare providers at the airports, so far, they have only collected nasopharyngeal specimen from the kids.

 

1. Download Boarding Pass and Bag labels

The boarding passes and bag labels are to be printed in advance. In case anyone does not have a printer, he/she can paste the flight details on the bag. You can also get it downloaded at the airport.

 

2. Reach the Airport early

While Kashmiris prefer reaching the airport hours earlier, a 2-hour deadline would be fine. Given the COVID-19 crisis, the airport is not as crowded as it usually is.

 

3. Buy necessary protection

While you can keep your face masks, shield, sanitisers and Personal Protective Equipment, in case you don’t have it with you, you can also buy it outside the airport. If you do not trust the sellers, you don’t need to worry as the essential protective equipment will be provided to you when you board the plane.

 

4. Stand on the marks

On the airport floor, to ensure physical distancing, circles would be drawn at the entrance. Stand on these marks and do not get close to people.

These differentiated marks will lead you to different gates and thus, flights. Follow the mark as per your flight.

 

5. Keep your boarding pass ready 

You can get your boarding pass printed outside the gates if you haven’t already printed it.

A barcode scan on your phone will give you a boarding pass.

 

6. Get a Security Check

Geared up security staff standing behind a protective glass wall will check your boarding pass and Identity card.

You have to pull down your mask for them to ascertain your identity.

 

7. Be ready for a checkup for physical symptoms

After your security check, another staff member will check your body temperature using a thermal gun. You will also have to show your status on Arogya Setu, an application recommended by the government to instal on your phone.

 

8. Hand over your luggage and go for another security check

Walk to the airline counter and drop your baggage. The staff on counters will assist you, in case you feel lost.

Next, walk into the security check and follow the marks on the floor. Take a tray and scan your belongings. Men should take out their belts in advance, a lot of people miss out on this.

 

9. Eat if you are hungry. You will not get food on the flight

The eateries are open inside the airport and have takeaway facilities. There are signage all around with barcodes of the eateries. Scan and order, they will find you & deliver your food.

 

10. Wait for the boarding call and follow the seating arrangement

The Waiting area, has an organised seating arrangement. There will be cross marks on the middle seats. Do not sit on them. You can use the washrooms that the staff disinfects from time to time.

 

11. Take the protective equipment offered by the staff

Before boarding, the staff will provide you will face shield, masks and sanitisers. While boarding, people are advised to pick a bottle of water at the entrance of the flight. The crew does not serve during the flight.

The crew in the flight will be wearing PPE suits. Travel light as the overhead space for handbags is not accessible. You have to put your handbags under your seat.

 

12. Do not take off your shield/mask

It is difficult to sit in the protective gears. However, it is safer.

 

13. Wait for your turn to get off the plane and get yourself registered

On arrival in Srinagar, people will be let off the flight in an order of two seats at a time.

You walk the tarmac in a queue.

On your way out, you will see registration desks where you get registered electronically by the staff who also mark your boarding pass.

While heading in, a staff on a computer, will read your name for confirmation of registration.

 

14. Collect your baggage

Follow the queue and collect your baggage.

 

15. Register yourself with the Health Department, take COVID-19 testing kit

There are health department registration desks where the staff fills in your details on pre-marked application forms.

You will be asked for your address, phone number, email id and symptoms, if any.

They will then handover a testing kit to you with a sample number on it.

 

16. Get tested for Coronavirus

Outside the departure gate, health workers would be available. Follow the queue and get yourself tested.

Testing can cause some irritation, but it does not last for more than 10 mins.

A nasopharyngeal (NP) specimen collected or an oropharyngeal (OP) specimen will be collected by a healthcare provider.

 

17. Follow signs leading you to your district tents

After getting tested, one has to follow the respective district signs leading one to the tents. Walk into the tent of your district and get your details including your address and flight number filled in and wait till your bus arrives.

 

18. Take the bus to the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC)

After around 45- 60 minutes, buses arranged by the authorities will take you to the TRC.

 

19. Opt for the quarantine centre

You can either pay for a hotel quarantine or opt for what the government has arranged.

If you get late, you might have to go for a paid quarantine as the spaces will get occupied in government quarantine. The government has set fixed rates for all hotels. Given the fact, people complained about the quarantine centres arranged by the government, you can opt for the paid quarantine if you can afford it.

 

20. Wait for your report and go home, if you test negative

Traveller Shahid Mir, who stayed at a hotel where the “staff was supportive and made his stay pleasant’, around 24 hours later he was informed by the hotel desk that he had tested negative and will be sent home the next day.

On the say, he was to go home, he says, “a team of doctors came and signed him off against COVID-19.”

 

21. Take the release token and stay in home quarantine for your and your family’s safety

The doctors will also advise you to stay under home quarantine before they hand over the release token to you.

“There were a few formalities before they handed the release token. It was smooth. My expectations were not that very high and I was prepared to stay in admin quarantine for a longer time,” Mir mentions adding that he stayed under home quarantine for the safety of his family.

 

NOTE: Steps mentioned here are complied as per one traveller, Shahid Mir’s experiences. Experiences of others might differ.

Marouf Gazi is a Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) 2019 fellow and a senior staffer at Free Press Kashmir.

 

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