With news of two more highly infectious strains of the novel coronavirus—the South African and Brazilian strains—reaching India, the government has issued a new set of travel guidelines for all international passengers.
The new guidelines, the Health Ministry has said, will apply to all incoming international passengers except those arriving from the U.K., Europe and the Middle East. The order was passed after four people in India were detected with the South African variant of the virus, and one person with the Brazilian strain. Other than this, about 187 cases of the highly infectious U.K. strain of the virus have been reported in the country.
To reduce the risk of importation of mutant strains of SARS-CoV-2, SOP for International Passengers arriving in India have been updated in supersession of all guidelines on the subject since 2 Aug20. The new SOP will be in effect on 23:59 hrs on 22nd Feb,21 pic.twitter.com/YoGFkitP2t
— MoCA_GoI (@MoCA_GoI) February 17, 2021
The new set of guidelines include the following:
Starting February 23, all international passengers will have to submit a self-declaration form (SDF) for COVID-19 on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled date of travel and upload a negative RC-PTR report. While filing the SDF, they will also have to declare whether they are planning to get off at the arrival airport or will be opting to take more flights for their final destination in India. Only those travelling to the country due to a death in the family can board the flight without a negative RC-PTR report.
Passengers from U.K., Europe and the Middle East will have to declare their travel history of the past two weeks. These same passengers will also have to undertake a self-expense paid compulsory RT-PCR test upon arrival at the respective Indian airports.
Airlines will need to identify passengers flying in from the U.K., Brazil and South Africa and segregate them from the rest of the crowds, either in-flight itself or while disembarking, so that the concerned authorities trace them out and follow due protocol. Passengers from these three countries who are taking transit flights through India should also be kept informed by the airlines about transit requirements—at least six to eight hours in the Indian airport in question—so that they can book their consecutive flights accordingly.
Passengers from the U.K., Brazil and South Africa who test positive at the airport or in home quarantine (along with their contacts there), will be kept in an institutional isolation facility in a separate unit that is under the charge of the concerned state health authorities. Additionally, only those passengers who appear asymptomatic after the thermal screening, will be allowed to board the flight. The same guidelines apply to international passengers arriving from seaports and landports. However, the provision for them to register online is currently unavailable. Instead, these passengers will have to submit self-declaration forms to the concerned government authorities upon arrival at the concerned seaport or land port.
Finally, India is following a set of procedures for international passengers, particularly the at-risk passengers, through a step-by-step process of thermal screening and testing. The new rules will come into effect on 11:59 p.m. on February 22.
Sanjana Ray is that unwarranted tour guide people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food. She is former Digital Writer at National Geographic Traveller India.