Indian authorities have stepped up their vigil amid mounting concerns over the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.
International travellers arriving in India can expect delays of six hours or more from Wednesday, 1 December as India’s new testing rules come into effect for everyone arriving from “at risk” countries.
According to the new guidelines issued by India’s Ministry of Health, all international travellers must submit an online self-declaration form that details their last 14 days of travel through the Air Suvidha portal before boarding an aircraft. A negative RT-PCR performed 72 hours before departure will also need to be uploaded.
In addition, all passengers coming from ‘at-risk’ countries will have to compulsorily undergo RT-PCR tests on arrival. Five per cent of passengers arriving from other countries will also be randomly selected to take the test. All tested passengers will have to wait for the results before being allowed to leave the airport or to take a connecting flight.
The ‘at risk’ countries from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India include the South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel, UK and European nations.
India has scaled up screening at all international airports and sea ports. Although India has not banned flights from South Africa, Hong Kong or Botswana, passengers travelling from, or transiting through these and destinations deemed to be risky will have to undergo the RT-PCR test on arrival, at the cost of INR 1700.
All states have been asked to trace arrivals from abroad in the past month. Genome sequencing of hundreds of samples since November 26 has detected no case of Omicron so far.
Zee News has reported waiting periods of up to six hours at international arrivals for passenger to receive their test results, before being allowed to leave the airport.
Meanwhile, NDTV has reported that India is likely to pause its decision on resumption of commercial international flights — scheduled for December 15.
Indira Gandhi International Airport has ramped up its capacity to collect 600 samples per hour and made seating arrangements for more than 1,200 people to accommodate passengers from ‘at risk’ countries, who will now have to stay back at airports to wait for their RT PCR reports.
Meanwhile, the Indian government reported that a total of 11 international flights landed at various airports of the country except Lucknow, from midnight to 4 pm today, from “at risk” countries. Out of the 3476 passengers who were administered RT PCR Tests, only 06 passengers were found COVID19 positive. The samples of the COVID19 positive passengers have been sent to the labs for Whole Genomic Sequencing. The passengers testing positive shall be managed at a separate isolation facility and treated as per laid down standard protocol including contact tracing mentioned.
Passengers from ‘at risk’ countries testing negative will still have to follow home quarantine for 7 days, re-test on the 8th day of arrival in India and, if negative, further self-monitor of their health for next 7 days.
Travellers from countries that are not ‘at risk’ will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days’ post-arrival.