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Grounded! No domestic passenger flights from Wed

Grounded! No domestic passenger flights from Wed

NEW DELHI: As the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 471 as of 8 pm on Monday, with 427 out of them being active, 35 discharged and nine deaths, scheduled domestic passenger flights will stop operating from 11.59 pm on Tuesday. The decision comes in the wake of major lockdowns across states that have made commutation between cities and airports almost impossible.

India has already stopped schedule international flights for a week, as of now, from March 22. From Tuesday-Wednesday midnight no passenger flights will be allowed in the country. Only cargo and evacuation flights cleared on a case-to-case basis will be allowed in the commercial space.

"The operations of domestic schedule commercial airlines shall cease operations with effect from the midnight, that is 11.59 pm (India time), on March 24. Airlines have to plan operations so as to land at their destination before 23:59 hours on March 24. The restrictions shall not apply to solely cargo-carrying flights," the Aviation ministry said.

On Sunday, the Delhi government's lockdown order had sought stopping of all domestic and international flights and had asked Airports Authority of India (AAI) chairman to ensure strict compliance of the same. But the Centre maintained that aviation is an essential service and Delhi airport will remain operational for domestic flights.

On Monday, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "stop all flights coming to West Bengal with immediate effect." She wrote: "...we are seriously concerned that the government of India is still allowing operation of flights causing a huge breach of shutdown… I would, therefore, request you to kindly arrange to issue necessary instructions to stop all flights coming to West Bengal with immediate effect so that the source of spreading infection is effectively contained and lockdown in the state is implemented in true letter and spirit." Bengal's lockdown begins at 5 pm on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister appealed to state governments to ensure that rules and regulations of the Coronavirus lockdown are enforced as he noted that many people are not taking the measure seriously.

"Many people are still not taking the lockdown seriously. Please save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously. I request state governments to ensure rules and laws are followed," he said in a tweet in Hindi.

Delhi on Monday — day one of the lockdown with no public transport services including Delhi Metro, private buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws — saw traffic jams on the sealed borders of UP (leading to Noida and Ghaziabad) and Haryana (Gurgaon and Faridabad). Passengers, crew and others who need to commute between IGI Airport and their homes come from all over NCR and faced a lot of trouble.

30 states and Union Territories went into lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, with the governments in Maharashtra, Punjab and Kerala imposing a state-wide curfew on Monday as the number of cases increased.

Bengal reported its first Coronavirus-linked death on Monday. The 57-year-old man, who had tested positive last week, was on ventilation.

Himachal Pradesh on Monday saw its first Coronavirus death as a 69-year-old Tibetan man who recently returned from the US died, health officials said.

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