Omicron: RT-PCR test must for passengers coming from 'at-risk' countries
Passengers travelling from or transiting through "at-risk" countries will have to undergo RT-PCR test on arrival in India and will be required to wait for the results before leaving the airport or taking a connecting flight, according to revised guidelines issued on Sunday after the emergence of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Travellers coming from countries other than those listed as "at risk" will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days after arrival, but five per cent of them will be randomly tested at the airport, the revised guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry stated.
The airlines concerned should identify the five per cent of such travellers to be tested in each flight, preferably from different countries. Such travellers shall be escorted by the airlines or the Ministry of Civil Aviation authorities to the testing area on arrival and the cost of testing of such travellers shall be borne by the ministry.
The existing guidelines have been revised in view of reporting of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, named Omicron (B.1.1.529), which has been now classified as a Variant of Concern by the World Health Organization, the Health Ministry said.
This standard operating procedure shall be valid from December 1 till further orders. The revised guidelines will supersede earlier ones issued on and after November 11.
According to the revised guidelines, before boarding passengers originating 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.
Do's and Don'ts shall be provided along with ticket to the travellers by the airlines/agencies concerned and airlines will allow boarding of only those passengers who have filled in the self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha portal and uploaded the negative RT-PCR test report.
This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.
At the time of boarding the flight, only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board after thermal screening and all passengers shall be advised to download Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices.
"Travellers from specified countries at risk will follow the protocol as detailed below: Submission of sample for post-arrival COVID-19 test at the point of arrival (self-paid). Such travellers will be required to wait for their test results at the arrival airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight.
"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 seven days," the guidelines stated.
However, if such travellers test positive, their samples should be sent for genomic testing at the INSACOG laboratory network.
They shall be managed at separate isolation facility and treated as per laid down standard protocol, including contact tracing, and the contacts of such positive case should be kept under institutional quarantine or at home quarantine monitored strictly by the state government concerned.
The countries (at risk updated as on November 26, 2021) from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India include European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.
Children under five years of age remain exempted from both pre- and post-arrival testing. However, if found symptomatic for COVID-19 on arrival or during home quarantine period, they shall undergo testing and treated as per laid down protocol.
According to the guidelines, contacts of the suspect case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three rows behind along with identified cabin crew.
Also, all the community contacts of those travellers who have tested positive during home quarantine period would be subjected to quarantine for 14 days and tested as per ICMR protocol.
International travellers arriving through seaports/land ports will also have to undergo the same protocol, except that facility for online registration is not available for such passengers currently.