Ministry of Health has issued new guidelines for international travellers in light of the rising risk of Covid-19 Omicron variant. Due to these guidelines, the new travel curbs have come into effect from today, December 1 and they list out precautionary measures (from pre-flight to post-arrival stages of an international traveller) to contain the spread of Omicron variant in India. These guidelines also list the countries which India now considers 'Countries at-risk'. Travellers need to follow additional measures upon arrival from these countries.
The Health Ministry said that the need to monitor the continuously changing nature of the virus and the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) must still remain in focus. It listed the 'Countries at-risk' in its circular, prescribing additional measures for checking travellers arriving from there.
List of countries has India put additional travel restrictions on -
1. Countries in Europe including The United Kingdom
2. South Africa
7. New Zealand
10. Hong Kong
All the travellers coming from these countries will have to undergo an RT-PCR test on arrival in India. If they test negative, then they will have to home quarantine for 7 days and would be again tested on the 8th day. If they still test negative, they will be advised to do self-monitoring of their health for another week.
But if they test positive, then they will be sent to a separate isolation facility and would be treated there. Meanwhile, their Covid-19 test sample will be sent for genome testing. An extra careful isolation and treatment protocol will be followed if they test positive for the Omicron variant.
Will children need to undergo Covid-19 testing?
Before boarding and upon their arrival in India, children below 5 years of age will be exempt from testing. However, if found symptomatic for Covid-19 on arrival or during the home quarantine period, they shall undergo testing and be treated as per laid down protocol.
Guidelines for people planning to travel to India
The travelers should submit a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel, including the last 14 days' travel details. They are also required to upload a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR report whose test should have been conducted within 72 hrs prior to undertaking the journey.
Upon arrival, they need to undergo an RT-PCR test if coming from the 'Countries at-risk'. If not, then a random 2% sample will be collected from them.
Detailed guidelines on international arrivals can be read from the circular here.
The ministry has listed the following steps to ensure that the travellers from 'Countries at-risk' do not spread the variant in India post their arrival -
1. Such travellers will be required to wait for their test results at the arrival airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight.
2. If tested negative they will 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.
3. However, if such travellers are tested positive, their samples should be sent for genomic testing at the INSACOG laboratory network.
4. They shall be managed at a separate isolation facility and treated as per laid down standard protocol including contact tracing mentioned in para (xiv) (of the original guidelines)
5. The contacts of such positive cases should be kept under institutional quarantine or at home quarantine monitored strictly by the concerned State Government as per laid down protocol.
A detailed algorithm chart has been prepared by the health ministry which demarcates the different approaches towards travellers coming to India.
The ministry says that the existing guidelines for international arrivals in India have been formulated taking a risk-based approach. The existing guidelines have been revised in view of reporting of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 which has been now classified as a Variant of Concern by the World Health Organization.
The Delhi airport says that the operations are running smoothly after these guidelines came into effect.