Addressing a press conference a day after he announced that domestic flight operations will start in a calibrated manner from May 25, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on May 21 clarified that the middle seats of the airplane will not be kept vacant.
"Middle seats on flights will not be kept vacant because even if that is done the necessary social distancing norms will not be met," Puri said, adding that nowhere in the world is the "option of keeping the middle seat vacant an option which anybody has seriously pursued."
"The system which we have followed of the middle-seat not being kept vacant has worked, because we take other corresponding preventive measures," Puri said.
In an order issued on May 21, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) has said that domestic flight operations can resume from May 25 onwards. The ministry has issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) that airlines need to follow.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The airlines will have to make all arrangements so as to ensure that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is minimised. Precautionary measures need to be taken within the aircraft as well at the time of check-in, boarding and arrival at the destination.They will also have to ensure coordination among the other service providers such as the airports, security agencies, ground handling agencies, etc.