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Omicron Variant: India Revises Guidelines For International Travellers; State-Wise Guidelines

Omicron (B.1.1.529), a new Coronavirus variant, is causing wide-spread concern around the world. South Africa, Brazil, the UK, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel have recently detected the variant. India's first two Omicron-infected Covid-19 patients have been found in Karnataka. Among them is a 66-year-old man from South Africa and a 46-year-old anaesthetist from Bengaluru, the health ministry reported. Both patients with Omicron showed only mild symptoms. Both had received two vaccinations.

The Indian health ministry had proposed resuming international flights on December 15; however, the government published new guidelines for foreign travellers on Sunday, requiring the RT-PCR test for those travelling from COVID-affected countries when they arrive at the airport. Authenticity should be assured in the COVID report. In the event of manipulated reports, the passenger will be held criminally liable.

Revised Guidelines For International Travellers

According to the government, the revised guidelines took effect on 1 December [1].

  • Under the updated guidelines, all travellers (regardless of their Covid-19 vaccination status) arriving in India from countries identified as 'at risk' are required to undergo post-arrival COVID-19 testing at the airports.
  • Passengers who test positive for Coronavirus in airport tests (post-arrival or pre-departure) will be isolated and treated according to the clinical management protocol. A sample of passengers will be taken for 'Whole Genome Sequencing'.
  • Only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board the aircraft after the thermal screening, and all passengers will be advised to download the Aarogya Setu app to their mobile devices.
  • In the event that passengers are negative on the COVID-19 test, they will still have to submit to home isolation for 7 days, followed by retesting on the eighth day after arrival in India as well as self-monitoring for 7 days.
  • Children under five years of age are exempt from both pre-and post-arrival testing when travelling internationally. If, however, they are found to be symptomatic for COVID-19 upon arrival or during the home quarantine period, they shall undergo testing and be managed as per protocol.
  • Individuals who have been in contact with COVID-positive travellers will also be quarantined for 14 days and tested.
  • The same protocol will apply to international travellers who arrive via seaports and land ports, but the facility for online registration is not currently available for such travellers.
  • As a result of these revised guidelines, 5 per cent of travellers coming from countries not included in the 'at risk category' will also be randomly selected for testing.

According to the Centre's guidelines, 'at risk' countries include European nations, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

State Government Guidelines For International Travellers

Maharashtra

  • On Thursday, Maharashtra amended its air travel rules to require seven-day institutional quarantine only for passengers from South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
  • An RT-PCR test will be administered immediately upon arrival at the respective international airport and a second test will be administered on the seventh day.
  • The passenger will be shifted to a hospital if they test positive for COVID-19 in any of the tests.
  • Upon the seventh day, if the COVID-19 test is negative, the individual must undergo a further seven days of home quarantine.
  • Arriving passengers are required to report the countries they have visited within the past 15 days.
  • For domestic travel, passengers must have a negative RT-PCR report that is not older than 72 hours or must be fully vaccinated.

Uttarakhand

  • The state government of Uttarakhand has announced that all new arrivals in the state will be required to undergo mandatory testing. They will be quarantined for 14 days if positive or symptomatic.
  • COVID-19 samples will be sent to the Government Medical College in Dehradun for genome sequencing.
  • Random testing will also be conducted at the state's borders.
  • All healthcare and frontline workers within the district will be tested in accordance with the latest ICMR guidelines.

Jammu and Kashmir

  • A RT-PCR test will be conducted on all international passengers arriving at the Srinagar Airport in Jammu and Kashmir, followed by a seven-day quarantine at home for those who test negative.
  • During quarantine, the passenger will undergo a retest on the eighth day or whenever symptoms arise.
  • If RT-PCR results are negative, the patients will continue to self-monitor for one more week under strict home quarantine.

Delhi

  • Prior to their scheduled departure, all international passengers should submit a self-declaration form on the Airport Self-Declaration Portal (https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration) including details of the last 14 days.
  • According to the central government guidelines, a negative RT-PCR report should be uploaded, as well as a test conducted 72 hours prior to departure.

Karnataka

  • In order to enter the state, international visitors will be required to undergo an RT-PCR test and undergo a seven-day home quarantine.
  • International visitors who do not pass the RT-PCR test will undergo a seven-day home quarantine. Those who are symptomatic and negative must undergo testing at their homes on the fifth day.
  • The seven-day test will be administered to those who are asymptomatic. Patients who test positive will be hospitalized immediately and treated separately.