73% citizens surveyed against India restarting full schedule commercial international flights from March 27th
- ● Countries like Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Netherlands, France, Australia and several others are experiencing major surge in COVID cases led by BA.2.2 or other sub-lineages
- ● People suggest restarting flights only from/to those countries where test positivity rate is in low single-digit
- ● Only 25% of citizens said that the Government should start commercial international flights from all countries as planned
March 14, 2022, New Delhi: With the decline in the overall COVID cases to less than 5000 a day in India and test positivity rate falling to less than 0.5%, the Government of India few weeks back announced the resumption of scheduled commercial international flights and ending the bubble flight arrangements it has with several countries. Although the Government maintains that international operations shall be subject to strict adherence to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare guidelines for international travel, the operation faces a new challenge as the world, especially in countries across Europe and Asia, currently grappling with the more transmissible rise of BA 2.2 sub-lineage of BA 2 variant of Omicron. This sub-variant is causing a drastic surge in COVID cases and leading to higher death rates. Hong Kong for instance is going through its highest ever death rate with 300 daily deaths while South Korea is currently witnessing more than 3.8 lakh cases per day, with the daily test positivity rate (TPR) approximately at 50%. A TPR lower than 5% is a threshold the WHO considers desirable. Anything greater than 5% is supposed to be a sign that the epidemic is out of control.
Starting flights from international countries at the time when there is a strong surge in COVID cases in Europe and Asia could pose an imminent danger of a rise in cases of BA 2.2 variant in India. In fact, the BA 2.2 variant has already reached India, with the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), which conducts genome sequencing of the coronavirus, reporting 3 such cases in Maharashtra, Puducherry and Ladakh. Based on genome sequencing data, the predominant variant in India currently is BA.2 and globally experts suggest that BA.2 infection does not provide immunity from BA.2.2.
Many citizens, when they have important concerns to escalate on Government policies, they typically share them via LocalCircles. Since the beginning of the pandemic, LocalCircles has been very active in learning about issues and developments on the ground and escalating them to Government for action. Several times in the past two years, the Government has acted on LocalCircles recommendations on international flight restrictions including the reversal of the decision in late November to resume international flights from Dec 15, 2021. Basis public concerns and feedback received in the last 2 weeks in regard to rising cases of BA.2.2 and other related sub lineages, LocalCircles has conducted another survey to understand the opinion of citizens on GOI’s decision to restart commercial international flights from Mar 27, 2022. The survey received 12,618 responses from citizens residing in 294 districts of India. 64% respondents were men while 36% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 35% from tier 2 and 21% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
73% citizens against restarting of full schedule of commercial international flights from March 27 in light of BA.2.2 and related mutations; suggest restarting only if TPR from a foreign country is in low single digits
Taking cognisance of the citizen concerns raised on restarting of commercial international flights from March 27th, 2022, the survey asked citizens, “Many countries (South Korea, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Germany, France, Netherlands) are facing a strong surge in COVID cases. As India restarts its commercial international flights from Mar 27, what should be its approach?” In response, only 25% of citizens said “Start commercial international flights from all countries as planned”. Breaking down the poll, 41% said only start commercial international flights from countries that have “TPR of less than 5%”, and 14% said “TPR of less than 2%”. 18% of citizens said “Postpone restarting of all commercial international flights for now” while 2% did not have an opinion. On an aggregate basis, 73% of citizens are against restarting full schedule commercial international flights from Mar 27, 2022, in light of BA.2.2 and related mutations. The majority of them want that the Government to only restart commercial international flights from countries that have the test positivity rate (TPR) in low single digits i.e., less than 5%, preferably 2%. The survey received 12,618 responses from across India.
In summary, the survey indicates that in light of the fast-spread of COVID cases led by the BA 2.2 sub-lineage of Omicron in several countries in Asia and Europe, 73% of citizens are against India restarting full schedule commercial international flights from Mar 27, 2022. People want the Government to take a cautious approach and start flights with countries that have TPR under 5%. Till the TPR for a country does not fall to the 5% threshold, flights should be kept suspended, according to the majority of people surveyed.
LocalCircles will be sharing the findings of the survey with all key stakeholders in Central Government so it can be considered as decisions regarding restarting of commercial international flights are operationalised.
The survey received 12,618 responses from citizens residing in 294 districts of India. 64% respondents were men while 36% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 35% from tier 2 and 21% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants are validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.