Centre red-flags Maharashtra’s 4 new Covid rules for flyers, wants them scrapped


PUNE: The Union ministry of health and family welfare on Wednesday told the Maharashtra government to scrap additional Covid-19 conditions imposed by the state for international and domestic passengers and align the state’s guidelines to the ones issued by the central government, people aware of the matter said.

The Centre’s missive came hours after Maharashtra, in a late evening order on Tuesday, mandated Covid-19 testing for all international travellers at the Mumbai airport irrespective of their country of origin, 14-day home quarantine for all international passengers despite testing negative on arrival and require passengers taking connecting flights to first clear a Covid-19 test.

Besides, Tuesday’s order issued by Maharashtra chief secretary Debashish Chakrabarty also requires domestic passengers to get themselves tested within 48 hours of flying to Maharashtra.

These four conditions are more stringent than the guidelines notified by the Union health ministry a few hours before Maharashtra issued its version, leading to some confusion and outrage among flyers who called them unfair.

Also Read: 40 million fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in Maharashtra; cases dip by 57.51%

In a letter to Maharashtra additional chief secretary Pradeep Vyas, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told the state government to align its guidelines to the ones issued by the Centre on these four points.

“This (Maharashtra government’s order) is in divergence with the SoPs (Standard operating procedure) and Guidelines issued by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India. I would, therefore, urge you to align the orders issued by the state with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. Of India, so that uniform implementation of the guidelines may be ensured across all States/UTs,” Rajesh Bhushan said.

HT has reviewed a copy of the letter.

Bhushan also asked Maharashtra to give “wide publicity” to the modified orders, once they are issued “to obviate any inconvenience to travellers”.

Also Read: Six test Covid positive in Maharashtra after return from high-risk countries

Pune resident Ajit Thakhalkar, who is currently in Jammu and Kashmir and is scheduled to fly back to the city on December 3, said the Maharashtra government’s new rules have created problems for him.

Thakhalkar said he was in a remote area of Jammu and Kashmir which did not have a Covid-19 testing facility. “How am I supposed to get the test done before coming to Pune,” he asked, saying his only option at the moment was to try getting a test done at Srinagar airport but wondered when the report would come in. He planned to fly to Delhi and take a connecting flight to Pune.

Another passenger who was scheduled to travel from Jaipur to Pune on Wednesday said the government should have given them 4-5 days notice before coming up with such a rule.“Such sudden changes in travel requirements create panic,” he said, pointing that it will take him at least a day to get the report.

Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture president Sudhir Mehta said they were in favour of reasonable restrictions but “reintroduction of RT-PCR Covid tests for domestic travel as done in Maharashtra serves little purpose for those already vaccinated.

This needs a review, he said, wondering why it was safe for a passenger flying from Nagpur to Pune, but not from Delhi.

As per the Centre’s guidelines, international passengers arriving from At-Risk countries were asked to remain under home quarantine for seven days and get tested again on the eighth day. While travellers coming from countries other than the flagged countries were allowed to leave the airport and were asked to “self-monitor” their health for 14 days from the arrival.

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