All international travellers will now have to upload their travel history and negative RT-PCR test reports on the Air Suvidha portal before embarking on their journey to India.

Passengers at the Trivandrum airport in Kerala amid the coronavirus pandemicImage for representation: PTI
news Omicron variant Monday, November 29, 2021 - 09:34

The Union Health Ministry on Sunday, November 29 revised the guidelines for the international arrivals in the wake of new COVID-19 variant, Omicron — designated as a Variant of Concern (VOC) by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The new guidelines will be effective from December 1. The Health Ministry, in a statement, said, "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 VOC by the WHO."

The government said that international arrivals will now have to upload their 14-day travel history and valid negative RT-PCR test reports on Air Suvidha portal before embarking on their journey to India. The RT-PCR test report should not be more than 72 hours old, added the statement.

According to the new guidelines, the passengers travelling from countries that are categorised as 'at-risk' will have to undergo testing on arrival. If the passengers test positive, their samples will be sent for genomic sequencing, and they will be sent to institutional quarantine. If they test negative, they will be asked to remain in home quarantine for seven days following which they will take a test on the 8th day and continue monitoring their health for the next seven days.

The government has listed — South Africa, China, the United Kingdom, European countries, Bangladesh, Brazil, Botswana, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel on the 'At Risk' segment. The tests for passengers from 'at-risk' nations will be self-paid while the cost of the random tests will be borne by the Civil Aviation Ministry. "Travellers from countries excluding the 'at risk' countries will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days post arrival," said the statement.

No cases of the variant, which was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 24, have been recorded in India. The Union government has asked all states and UTs to focus on intensive containment, active surveillance, enhanced testing, monitoring of hotspots, increased coverage of vaccination and augmentation of health infrastructure.

The new variant has the potential of developing "immunoescape mechanisms" which may lead to a decreased efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, according to AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guelria who said the efficacy of vaccines including those in use in India needs to be evaluated "critically".

India, which battled the deadly second wave blamed on the Delta variant in April-May, faces the Omicron challenge after easing curbs to a large extent following an improvement in the situation. 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. But on Sunday, the government said it will review the decision on the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services as per evolving global scenario.

With IANS and PTI inputs

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