New Travel Guidelines For India After Omicron Outbreak: What You Should Know

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Travel guidelines for India updated: The B.1.1.529 variant of SARS-CoV-2, also dubbed as Omicron, has sparked global concerns. As the world reels from impact of the Delta variant, the new variant’s ability to escape the immune system triggered by vaccines is not the news we needed.

Acting fast on the news, many countries are now taking measures to prevent the spread of this new coronavirus variant. From travel bans to genome sequencing and contact tracing, various measures are being taken to ensure that it doesn’t spread to a scale similar to its predecessors. And India is not behind.

The government of India had earlier decided to relax the international travel restrictions, from December 15. However, in the wake of the Omicron strain, it has decided to review the steps and warned the states and UTs to stay alert.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Retired General VK Singh had said on November 29 that there is tremendous pressure from the public to begin international flights. However, all necessary protocols and precautions are being taken. “Anybody coming from outside, especially tourists, are being screened and tested at the airport. Only after checking the results, they are being allowed to go,” he told ANI.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has published the following set of guidelines with respect to international travel that is to come into effect from December 1, 2021. Here are the points that you need to know:

1. Traveller has to fill the self-declaration form along with the 14 days travel history and a negative RTPCR test report taken within 72 hours of commencing the journey, on the portal AIR SUVIDHA.

2. For passengers coming from “at-risk countries”, guidelines to undertake a self-paid test on arrival and waiting for the final result before leaving the airport have been put in place.

3. If the passenger tests positive, they would be sent to a separate isolation facility. Their samples would also be taken to INSACOG lab for Genomic Sequencing, followed by contact tracing. In case of symptomatic contact, they would be sent for an institutional or home quarantine that will be monitored by the respective State Government.

4. If the passenger tests negative, they still need to undergo home quarantine for seven days, followed by a test on the eighth day and self-monitoring of the health for the next seven days.

5. Those travelling from countries other than the “at-risk” countries –

  • Would be informed by the airline of random testing on arrival.
  • The random test would be applicable for five percent of passengers on the flight only.
  • The cost of these tests will be borne by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
  • If the results are positive, then the person would be required to follow the protocols laid by the Ministry of Health.
  • In the other scenario, self-quarantine for the next 14 days is mandatory and in case of development of any symptoms, the person should report directly to a health facility nearby or call on National Healthline Number-1075.

5. For passengers arriving through land ports or sea ports, a self-declaration form should be submitted to the concerned authority. No portals have been referred to, in this regard.

A list of countries at risk is published by the Ministry of Health and Public welfare, with regular updates, on its official website. Children below the age of five have been exempted from both the testing- before and after the arrival. In any case of symptoms observed on arrival and home quarantine, the child will undergo testing and treatment as per the protocol, states the Ministry of Health website with regard to Omicron related travel guidelines.

Reports from December 1 suggest that the government of India could postpone the scheduled resumption of international flights from December 15. According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, in view of the merging global scenario, the situation is being watched closely in consultation with all stakeholders and an appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services shall be notified in due course. More information on the same is expected to emerge later.

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