Amid Omicron fear, India revises travel guidelines for international arrivals

The latest protocols and SOPs by the government have replaced all the travel guidelines issue on and after November 11, in view of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Airport will have strict scrutiny and more stringent protocols. Image: Shutterstock/alice photo.

The rising global concerns over spreading of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron (B.1.1.529), has led the Union Ministry of Home and Family Welfare to issue new travel guidelines for international travellers coming to India, effective December 1.

The Indian government has sprung into action by taking a risk-based approach as the new protocol and Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs) mandate strict airport scrutiny, submitting travel details of last14 days, and uploading negative RT-PCR test results on Air Suvidha portal 72 hours before the journey. Travellers from ‘at risk nations’ (including the UK, South Africa, Hong Kong, Brazil, China, New Zealand, Mauritius, and Singapore among others) will now need to take an RT_PCR test upon arrival and wait for the results at the airport before exiting or boarding a connecting flight. They will also have to self-quarantine themselves at home for seven days, re-test on the eight day and if negative again, further self-monitor for the next seven days.

RT-PCR test on arrival is mandatory for travellers from ‘at risk’ countries. Image: Shutterstock/People Image Studio.

Travellers from countries excluding those ‘countries at risk’ will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor health for 14 days, the ministry’s statement read. A sub-section (five per cent of total flight passengers) shall undergo post-arrival testing at random at the airport on arrival. A declaration with respect to the authenticity of the test report will also be required, manipulated reports will make the passenger liable for criminal prosecution. The same protocols also apply to the international travellers arriving in India through seaports and land ports, except the online registration is not available to them yet. They will be required to submit their self-declaration forms to the concerned government authorities in person upon arrival. Children under the age of five are exempted from both pre- and post-arrival testing, except if found symptomatic.

As per the revised guidelines, before boarding, passengers coming from or transiting through at-risk countries shall be informed by the airlines that they will undergo post-arrival testing, quarantine if tested negative, stringent isolation protocols if tested positive, etc. The ministry has requested state governments to maintain rigorous surveillance on the international travellers and their movement to prevent the spread of Omicron, which has now been classified as a ‘Variant of Concern’ by the World Health Organization.

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