GANGTOK: If a tourist tests positive in the Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) at Sikkim’s Pakyong Airport, they will need to proceed for paid quarantine at the Railway Guest House in Gangtok.

While a valid RT-PCR negative report has been a necessity for tourists visiting Sikkim since April 17, the government made mandatory testing facilities only at the Rangpo and Melli check-points into the state.

This left Pakyong Airport as a vulnerable entry point into the state, allowing passengers to cheat and enter Sikkim without following the mandatory COVID protocols.

Until April 19, 487 passengers entered Sikkim through the Pakyong Airport without RAT testing or screening for valid RT-PCR negative report. While many of the passengers were locals, there were also several domestic and foreign tourists who entered without a valid RT-PCR negative report, officials told EastMojo.

Concerns over this laxity among airport staff finally led to Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials to reach out to the Tourism Department of Sikkim, requesting to make RAT testing mandatory at the Pakyong Airport. The Pakyong Primary Health Centre, led by Chief Medical Officer (East), then initiated RAT testing for passengers without valid RT-PCR negative reports from Tuesday, April 20.

On the very first day, two locals from Shyari in Gangtok and one from Pakyong tested positive. They were travelling by the Delhi-Pakyong flight.

On Friday, after a week of initiating RAT testing at the borders, Sikkim government finally notified Pakyong Airport authorities to strictly implement RAT testing for tourists without valid RT-PCR negative report.

Pakyong Airport’s in-charge of the tourist information center, Raghav Chettri, has been tasked to identify tourists with invalid reports. Additional police personnel have also been added for smooth conduct of RAT testing, which will be carried out each day from 9:00 am to 5 pm for all flights to and from Delhi and Kolkata.

In case a tourist tests positive, the airport ambulance will ferry them to the paid quarantine facility at the Railway Guest House, officials said.

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