Several people whose hometowns are elsewhere are leaving the city following the opening of domestic air travel across the nation. The reason for this exodus, they say, is due to the rising number of cases in the city, the freeing of work schedules, and familial concern.
“There was a lot of parental pressure to leave as soon as possible. Chennai is a red district and over the last three weeks, there was an exponential rise in cases. My parents wanted me to leave since last month,” said a native of Thiruvananthapuram, who flew to her hometown on Monday.
For others, the decision was made due to concerns for ageing family members, as in the case of Aishwarya, a working professional who returned to her hometown in Maharashtra to take care of her parents.
“They wanted me to be around, but there wasn’t any pressure from their end. They wanted me to be safe, first and foremost, but I was so worried because my father doesn’t keep in good health. The cases in Maharashtra were rising, and I would never forgive myself if I couldn’t take care of my parents,” she said.
The extension of the lockdown has allowed many to take a long-pending home visit. This also allows many to be able to sit through the 14-day quarantine period while also spending time with their family.
“I haven’t been home since November. The cases are still going up so I’m expecting a few more weeks of partial lockdown, which means a few more weeks of work from home. I live in Chennai alone, so I am really looking forward to being with my family again,” said a non-resident, who will be returning to his hometown in Telangana next week.
Many feel that undergoing the screening and checking at the airport was not too much of a hassle, but opinions are varied on when they would be allowed to return. Some feel that they would have to return at the end of the month, while others feel that the daily sharp spike in cases might mean that Chennai will remain closed till the end of July, and thus have not booked their return tickets yet.
Centre urged to furnish list of lockdown rules in all States
Following demands from the public who travel from Tamil Nadu to other states, consumer activists urged the Centre to furnish the list of lockdown rules of all State governments in the Civil Aviation Ministry website.
“There are lockdown rules formulated by every State for passengers coming by flights. But the rules are not known to people who travel from Tamil Nadu, due to which the passengers face several issues. The Ministry of Civil Aviation should upload the lockdown rules of all the states in its website for easy access of public,” said T Sadasivam, president, Tamil Nadu Progressive Consumer Centre.
Recently, the State government issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for passengers undertaking air travel within the State and those entering Tamil Nadu. In the SOP, e-pass was made mandatory, and RT-PCR tests were made compulsory for passengers from Maharashtra, Delhi and Gujarat. However, other state governments also framed their own set of rules. Due to this, people travelling from Tamil Nadu were facing issues, he said. “Each State government changes rules periodically, which those residing in other states do not know. As people remain unaware of the recent rules, there are instances where a person had to cancel his flight ticket thrice,” said Sadagopan.
He added that due to rising number of COVID cases, those traveling from Chennai have to face several hardships in other states. So the SOP should be common for all states for the ease of public.