The Union health ministry on Wednesday urged the Maharashtra government to align with the Centre’s guidelines and standard operating procedures (SoPs) for air passengers. Divergent guidelines and SoPs on mandatory Covid-19 testing and quarantine norms for travellers coming from “at-risk” countries could create challenges for domestic and international passengers. After the Centre’s new guidelines for international travellers kicked in on Wednesday, the Maharashtra government imposed additional restrictions across the state’s airports. Additional restrictions have also been imposed on domestic travellers to and from Maharashtra.
The Union health secretary on Wednesday urged the Maharashtra government to align with the Centre’s guidelines and SoPs. The health ministry has called for uniform implementation of the guidelines across all states/ Union Territories to prevent inconvenience to travellers.
The Maharashtra government has issued separate guidelines that mandated RT-PCR testing of all international travellers at Mumbai airport, irrespective of country of origin. Passengers coming from “at risk” countries would also have to be institutionally quarantined for seven days. Mandatory 14-day home quarantine has been recommended for all international passengers, even in case of a negative RT-PCR test report upon arrival. Passengers taking connecting flights from Mumbai must also take the mandatory RT-PCR test after disembarking at Mumbai, and further travel would be subject to a negative RT-PCR result.
The Maharashtra government has also made negative RT-PCR test 48 hours prior to date of journey compulsory for all domestic passengers travelling in from other states, even if they are fully vaccinated. For travel within Maharashtra, they would either need a negative RT-PCR report or full vaccination certification.
This was done after 1,126 passengers landed in Mumbai from South Africa between November 10 and 30 with seven testing positive for Covid-19. Their samples have been sent for genomic sequencing to the National Institute of Virology to check for the Omicron variant.
The Union health ministry’s revised guidelines for international travellers have mandated RT-PCR tests, irrespective of vaccination status, only for those coming to India from “at-risk” countries. This is in addition to the pre-departure testing undertaken 72 hours before the departure. Passengers testing positive have to be isolated and treated as per the clinical management protocol, with samples sent for genome sequencing.
Passengers with negative RT-PCR tests can exit the airport, but have to remain in home isolation for seven days and repeat the RT-PCR test. The revised guidelines also mandate that 2% of the travellers coming from countries which are not in the “at risk” category would also be tested on a random basis at the airports for Covid-19. The 11 countries listed at-risk are the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.