India issues fresh SOPs for international passengers as new COVID variants emerge

at 10:55 am
international passengers

New Delhi (NVI): To reduce the risk of importing new mutant strains of SARS-CoV-2, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has issued a set of fresh guidelines for all international passengers arriving in India.

The new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which will come into effect at 11.59 pm on February 22, includes a multi-pronged strategy of screening and testing to identify and isolate at-risk international travellers.

The guidelines state that all international travellers will have to submit a self-declaration form on the Air Subidha portal before their travel.

They should also upload a Covid-negative RT-PCR report, with the test having been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey, according to the SOPs.

Each passenger should also submit a declaration regarding the authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution if found otherwise, the guidelines state.

Only those travelling to India in case of emergencies such as death of a family member will be allowed to arrive without a Covid-negative report. However, they should seek exemption on the online portal 72 hours prior to boarding.

During the journey, all passengers should wear masks, observe social distancing norms and have downloaded the Aarogya Setu app.

After deboarding, the passengers will have to undergo thermal scanning and show officials the self-declaration online form they had filled. Those found symptomatic during screening will be immediately isolated and taken to medical facilities.

Furthermore, international travellers arriving through sea ports/land ports will also have to undergo the same protocol, however, the facility for online registration is not available for such passengers at the moment.

For all international travellers coming from or transiting through flights originating from the UK, Europe and Middle East, the clauses on testing, quarantine and isolation are different.

Apart from submitting the self-declaration form online and carrying the Covid-negative report, they will have to mention their travel history for the past 14 days. They also need to mention when they plan to disembark at the arrival airport or take further flights to India.

The SOP states that airlines should inform passengers that there can be a transit time of 6-8 hours at the airport as passengers from the UK, Brazil and South Africa, who need to take connecting flights, have to undergo testing.

The guidelines further add that airlines should identify travellers arriving from or transiting through the UK, South Africa and Brazil and segregate them during the journey and while deboarding.

The guidelines have been issued at a time when five persons, who returned recently to India, have been detected with the infectious Covid-19 variants found in South Africa and Brazil.

Meanwhile, the number of people who have tested positive for the new UK strain of Covid-19 in the country has climbed to 187, health and family welfare ministry officials have said.