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A deserted view of the International Arrival Zone at IGI Airport
A deserted view of the International Arrival Zone at IGI Airport

Delhi flight ban confusion shows India’s pains to contain coronavirus

  • Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, declared no flights -- domestic or international -- will be allowed to land in the Indian capital’s main airport from 6am Monday
  • Hours after that deadline passed, dozens of planes have been operating from the Indira Gandhi International Airport

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, declared no flights -- domestic or international -- will be allowed to land in the Indian capital’s main airport from 6 a.m. Monday. Hours after that deadline passed, dozens of planes have been operating from the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

That’s because Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration overturned the ban, with the regulator Director General of Civil Aviation saying the airport will “remain functional." The confusion is symptomatic of how India’s federal structure -- with central and state governments often ruled by different political parties -- pulling in different directions is set to pose challenges in containing the spread of the coronavirus.

The pandemic, which has already killed thousands around the world, is fast-spreading in India with experts warning the world’s second-most populous nation may not be equipped to deal with a huge spurt in infected patients. All districts of the national capital New Delhi have been locked down, while the government of the state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial hub Mumbai, asked all non-essential businesses to stay closed through March 31, essentially shutting down India’s main centers of government and finance.

Kejriwal on Sunday announced a series of steps including shutting down construction activity, places of worship, public transport and put a ban on flights bound for the airport in Delhi, run by GMR Infrastructure Ltd. Within an hour, a federal government spokesman contradicted. “Once a flight takes off, there is no reason for any state to disallow its landing," he said, prompting statements from the airport and airlines that flights to the capital will continue.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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