The emergence of the new Omicron strain of the coronavirus has made the government cautious about resuming international flights. It released new guidelines on Sunday, listing nearly a dozen “at risk” countries, and removing the exemption for vaccinated people.
The rules are meant to contain the spread of Omicron variant.
After a long hiatus of more than 20 months, the government had on November 26 announced the resumption of scheduled international commercial flights from December 15. Flights are currently on under bilateral bubble arrangements with countries.
What are the “at risk” countries?
These are the nations where cases of Omicron strain have been found. The variant was first detected in southern Africa and has since spread to a number of countries.
As per the new guidelines released by the government, the UK, entire Europe and 11 countries – South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel – are “at risk”.
Rules for passengers arriving 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 by the Health Ministry.
Travellers who test positive will be taken to a medical facility for isolation, where they will need to stay till they test negative if they indeed are infected by the Omicron variant. If they are infected by any of the other variants, their release will be at the discretion of a doctor based on their condition.
For people who test negative after coming from the listed countries, they will need to be in home quarantine and take another test on the eighth day. If they are positive, they will need to report to the Covid-19 helpline, the guidelines said.
These travellers will also have to declare their travel history for the last 14 days.
The spread of Omicron variant
At least nine countries have confirmed detecting the super mutated strain as of Sunday. The B.1.1.529 variant was designated as a “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday.
Situation in India
A man who returned from South Africa to Dombivali in Thane district of Maharashtra recently has tested positive for coronavirus, a Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) official said on Sunday.
It is not confirmed whether the patient was carrying the Omicron variant of coronavirus, which was identified as the variant of concern by the WHO, the official said.
His samples are being sent for genome sequencing to check the presence of the Omicron variant. The man had travelled from Cape Town to Dombivali on November 24.