The Indian government on Thursday revised 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 rather than the current one week of home quarantine. The new guidelines will come into effect from Monday, February 14, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) said.
The ministry stressed the “need to monitor the continuously changing” Covid-19 pandemic situation, but also acknowledged that “economic activities need to be taken up in an unhindered manner”.
According to the new guidelines, all foreign arrivals must fill a self-declaration form online (available on the Air Suvidha section of the New Delhi airport website), including a travel history of the past 14 days. They must also upload a negative RT-PCR test conducted not earlier than 72 hours of the travel date. Alternatively, they can also upload a certificate confirming they have received both vaccine doses.
The double vaccine 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 (to) 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 MoHFW has said.
Only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board, and Covid protocol, including the use of face masks and social distancing norms, 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 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 ministry said.
The new set of rules follow on the heels of those announced in December, when strict restrictions were put in place to prevent the highly contagious Omicron variant from spreading.
Despite those rules, however, the Omicron strain triggered a third wave of cases in India, with daily infections peaking at nearly 3.5 lakh in mid-January. The case load has since gone down, prompting several states and cities to ease restrictions and try to revive economic growth.
As of today, India’s active case load is a little under 8 lakh, with nearly 68,000 new Covid cases reported in the last 24 hours.