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Omicron variant: Ministry of Health issues fresh guidelines for travel from 12 nations in 'at risk' category

The new set of guidelines provides protocols to be complied with international travellers as well those to be followed by airlines, points of entry -- including airports, seaports and land border -- for risk profiling of passengers.

November 29, 2021 / 06:57 PM IST

Amid the rising concern for new coronavirus variant Omicron, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on November 28 issued new guidelines for international travellers arriving in India, effective December 1. Now, passengers travelling from or transiting through "at-risk" countries have to undergo RT-PCR test on arrival in India and will be required to wait for the results before leaving the airport or taking a connecting flight.

The new set of guidelines has protocols to be complied with international travellers as well those to be followed by airlines, points of entry -- including airports, seaports and land border -- for risk profiling of passengers.

Among other things, the government also issued a list of 12 countries from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India including post-arrival testing.  They include countries in Europe including The United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh,  Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

ALSO READ: Omicron threat | Centre tells states to conduct surveillance of travellers coming from 'at risk' countries

Protocols/guidelines for travellers arriving in India: 

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Following the arrival from 'at risk' countries, the travellers will have to wait for their test results at arrival airport before leaving or taking a flight. If the test is found negative, they will have to to quarantine for 7 days. On the 8th day, a second test will be conducted and passenger will have to self monitor for 7 days if tested negative.

Passengers testing positive shall be managed at a separate isolation facility and their samples should be sent to INSACOG, added the guidelines.

Contacts of positive patients will be kept under institutional or hone quarantine.

International travellers arriving at seaports/land ports:

The government in its guidelines mentioned it clearly that all arriving passengers will have to undergo the same protocol -- as applied for passenger form 'at risk' and non-risk countries. However, the facility for online registration is not available for such passengers currently. The passengers will have to submit the self-declaration form to the concerned authorities of Government of India at seaports or land ports on arrival.

According to the new document, all new passengers -- planning to travel -- must submit a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel, including last 14 days travel details. Also, they will have to upload a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report in the portal, which should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey. The traveller will also have to submit a declaration with respect to authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution.

Children under 5 years of age are exempted from both pre- and post-arrival testing. However, if found symptomatic for COVID-19 on arrival or during home quarantine period, they shall undergo testing and treated as per laid down protocol.

Passengers planning international travel via flight:

For the travellers from countries -- excluding those countries 'at risk' -- they will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days’ post arrival. The document further states that a sub-section -- 5 percent of the total flight passengers -- will undergo post-arrival testing at random at the airport on arrival. The cost of testing of such travellers shall be borne by Ministry of Civil Aviation. If any traveller is tested positive, he or she will be managed as per laid down standard protocol and samples would further send for genomic testing.

Regarding the boarding of the outbound passengers -- originating or transiting from at-risk countries -- airlines will have to inform them that they will undergo post arrival testing, quarantine if tested negative, stringent isolation protocols if tested positive etc.

Also, airlines can allow boarding by only those passengers who have filled in the self declaration form on the Air Suvidha portal, uploaded the negative RT-PCR test report. Only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board after thermal screening and all passengers should be advised to download Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices.

An in-flight announcement about COVID-19, including precautionary measures to be followed shall be made at airports and in flights and during transit, added the document. As per protocol if any passenger reports symptoms of COVID-19 during flight, he or she will be isolated.
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