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COVID19-Omicron Update Centre Revises Guidelines for International Arrivals

COVID19-Omicron Update Centre Revises Guidelines for International Arrivals

Introduction

The global trajectory of COVID-19 pandemic continues to decline with certain regional variations. The need to monitor the continuously changing nature of virus and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) must still remain in focus. The existing guidelines for international arrivals in India have been formulated taking a risk-based approach. The existing guidelines have been revised in view of reporting of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (B.1.1.529; named Omicron) which has been now classified as Variant of Concern by the World Health Organization.

Scope

This document provides protocols to be complied with international travellers as well those to be followed by airlines, points of entry (airports, seaports and land border) for risk profiling of passengers.

This Standard Operating Procedure shall be valid w.e.f.  11th January 2022 (00.01 Hrs IST) till further orders. Based on the risk assessment, this document shall be reviewed from time to time.

Planning for Travel

  • All travellers should
    • Submit self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel, including last 14 days travel details. 
    • Upload a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report*. This test should have been conducted within 72 hrs prior to undertaking the journey.
    • Each passenger shall also submit a declaration with respect to authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution, if found otherwise
  • They should also give an undertaking on the portal or otherwise to Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, through concerned airlines before they are allowed to undertake the journey that they would abide by the decision of the appropriate government authority to undergo home quarantine/ self-health monitoring, as warranted.
  • Continuing with the earlier approach, travellers from certain specified Countries (based on epidemiological situation of COVID-19 in those Countries) are identified for additional follow up. These include need for additional measures as detailed in para (xv) below. The listing of such specified Countries is a dynamic exercise based on evolving situation of COVID-19 across the world and will be made available on the websites of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and the link of the same will be available at website of Ministry of External Affairs and Air Suvidha portal .
  • All travellers who need to undertake testing on arrival, should preferably pre-book the test online on Air Suvidha Portal, to facilitate timely testing.

Before Boarding

  • Passengers originating or transiting from 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.
  • Airlines to allow boarding by only those passengers who have filled in the Self Declaration Form on the Air Suvidha portal, uploaded the negative RT-PCR test report.
  • At the time of boarding the flight, only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board after thermal screening.
  • All passengers shall be advised to download Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices.

During Travel

  • In-flight announcement about COVID-19 including precautionary measures to be followed shall be made at airports and in flights and during transit.
  • During in-flight crew shall ensure that COVID appropriate behaviour is followed at all times.
  • If any passenger reports symptoms of COVID-19 during flight, he/she shall be isolated as per protocol.
  • Proper in-flight announcements should be made by the airlines regarding the testing requirements and people who need to undergo such testing to avoid any congestion at the arrival airports.

On arrival

  • Deboarding should be done ensuring physical distancing.
  • Thermal screening would be carried out in respect of all the passengers by the health officials present at the airport. The self-declaration form filled online shall be shown to the airport health staff.
  • The passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately isolated and taken to medical facility as per health protocol. If tested positive, their contacts shall be identified and managed as per laid down protocol#.
  • 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 and shall undertake RTPCR test on the 8th day of arrival in India.*
    • Travelers shall also be required to upload results of repeat RT-PCR test for COVID-19 done on 8th day on Air Suvidha portal (to be monitored by the respective States/UTs).
    • If negative, they will further self-monitor their health for next 7 days.
    • However, if such travellers are tested positive, their samples should be sent for genomic testing at INSACOG laboratory network.
    • They shall be managed at separate isolation facility and treated as per laid down standard protocol including contact tracing.
    • The contacts of such positive case should be kept under institutional quarantine or at home quarantine monitored strictly by the concerned
      State Government as per laid down protocol.
  • Travellers from Countries excluding those Countries at risk, will follow the protocol as below.
    • A sub-section (2% of the total flight passengers) shall undergo post-arrival testing at random at the airport on arrival. 
    • The 2% of such travellers in each flight shall be identified by the concerned airlines (preferably from different countries).
    • Laboratories shall prioritize testing of samples from such travellers
    • All travellers (including those 2% who were selected for random testing on arrival and were found negative) will undergo home quarantine for 7 days and shall undertake RT-PCR test on the 8th day of arrival in India*.
    • Travelers shall also be required to upload results of repeat RT-PCR test for COVID-19 done on 8th day on Air Suvidha portal (to be monitored by the respective States/UTs).
    • If negative, they will further self-monitor their health for next 7 days.
    • However, if such travellers are tested positive, their samples should be further sent for genomic testing at INSACOG laboratory network.
    • They shall be managed at isolation facility and treated as per laid down standard protocol including contact tracing mentioned above. 
  • Travellers under home quarantine or self-health monitoring, if develop signs and symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 on re-testing, they will immediately selfisolate and report to their nearest health facility or call National helpline number (1075)/ State Helpline Number.
    International travellers arriving at seaports/land ports

International travellers arriving through seaports/land ports

  • International travellers arriving through seaports/land ports will also have to undergo the same protocol as above, except that facility for online registration is not available for such passengers currently.
  • Such travellers shall submit the self-declaration form to the concerned authorities of Government of India at seaports/land ports on arrival.

Footnote

* Children under 5 years of age are 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.

# Contacts of the suspect case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, 3 rows in front and 3 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.

Source : Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

FAQs on the guidelines

Q 1. What kind of RT-PCR tests have been approved by ICMR following systems for molecular testing of SARS-CoV-2 at airports?

ICMR has approved the following systems for molecular testing of SARS-CoV-2 (all these systems are considered equivalent to RTPCR). All the labs who would conduct the tests would follow the ICMR/ MoHFW guidelines to ensure genome sequencing for all positive cases.

  • Open system RTPCR
  • TrueNat
  • GeneXpert
  • RTLAMP
  • CRISPR/TATAMD CHECK/FELUDA
  • Abbott ID Now
  • Accula by Thermofisher
  • Rapid RTPCR
  • CoviDx DirectPlex

Airports are directed by MoCA to facilitate the RT-PCR testing of passengers by extending the required facilities and logistics. 

Q 2.Some travellers excluding from those Countries at risk (as per latest MOHFW guidelines) would be subject to post-arrival testing at random. Whether they need to wait at the airports till the test result is received? Can they be allowed to leave the airport of entry to reduce the crowding at the airport?

Travellers undergoing random sampling may give the sample and be allowed to leave. Now, the random sampling would be limited to 2% as per latest MoHFW guidelines and it would be on self-paid basis. Airlines/Airports may co-ordinate with the officials of State/UT Governments to select the passenger at random sampling.

Q 3.-If the travellers from Countries (excluding those Countries at risk) are transiting through the airports of countries ‘at risk,’ but staying within the airports, can they be exempted from the post-arrival testing based on the self-declaration form?

Post-arrival testing can be exempted if a person is travelling from a NOT AT RISK country and has only a transit (without leaving immigration) in AT RISK country before taking the destination flight. However, if the person has travelled to any AT RISK country in last 14 days, he/she will be asked for post arrival testing and other additional restrictions, etc.

Q 4.-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.

This means after the negative results are received, the passengers can take connecting flights to reach their final destination.

Q 5.-Can exit of passengers can be phase-wise as the results are received so that all need not wait till the result is received for every passenger of the particular flight?

A passenger can exit the airport or can take connecting flights for final destination once the negative report is received. He/She need not wait for the report of all the co-passengers.



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