The government has revised the guidelines for international arrivals, removing the category of ‘at risk’ countries – introduced when the Omicron Covid variant emerged – and also recommending self-monitoring of 14 days for symptoms against the current seven days of home quarantine.
The new guidelines will come into effect from Monday, February 14, the Union Health Ministry said. The ministry stressed the ‘need to monitor the continuously changing’ COVID-19 virus but also acknowledged that ‘economic activities need to be taken up in an unhindered manner’.
The @MoHFW_INDIA has issued revised guidelines for International Arrivals ✈️
Guidelines to come in effect from 14th February.
Follow these diligently, stay safe & strengthen India's hands in the fight against #COVID19.
Main features include:
📖 https://t.co/J9e8ZJw3qw (1/6)
— Dr Mansukh Mandaviya (@mansukhmandviya) February 10, 2022
According to the new guidelines, all foreign arrivals must fill a self-declaration form online (available at the Air Suvidha web portal), including a travel history of the past 14 days. They must also upload a negative RT-PCR test that was conducted within 72 hours of the travel date. Alternatively, they can also upload a certificate confirming they have received both vaccine doses.
This option, however, is only available for passengers arriving from 72 countries whose vaccination programmes the Indian government recognises as part of a reciprocal programme. These countries include Canada, Hong Kong, the United States, the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Qatar, Australia, New Zealand, and some European nations.
“Airlines (will) allow boarding (of) only those passengers who have filled in all the information in the self-declaration form… and uploaded the negative RT-PCR test report or COVID-19 vaccination certificate…” the Health Ministry has said.
Only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board, and Covid-appropriate behaviour, including the use of face masks and practising of social distancing, must be followed during the flight. On arrival, in addition to thermal screening, passengers selected at random (up to two per cent of total passengers per flight) will be asked to undergo RT-PCR tests. Passengers will be selected by the airline and must “preferably” be from different countries.
Passengers found to be symptomatic will be immediately quarantined and tested, with contact tracing carried out if they are found to be Covid-positive. All other passengers must self-monitor for 14 days for any Covid symptoms, the Health Ministry said. These rules replace those announced in December when strict restrictions were put in place to prevent the more contagious Omicron variant from spreading.
Despite those rules, however, the Omicron strain found its way into the country and triggered the third wave of cases, with daily cases peaking at nearly 3.5 lakh in the middle of last month.