Kerala eases demand for no COVID-19 certificate from Gulf returnees: List of new rules

Kerala government has asked all returnees from the Gulf countries to “make sincere efforts to get tested and travel along with the certificate”.
Passengers arriving at Bengaluru airport
Passengers arriving at Bengaluru airport
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The Kerala government has decided to relax its testing criteria for expatriates or Indian nationals who wish to return to the state. While the state government insisted that those returning from the Middle East countries to Kerala must get themselves tested before boarding the flight, it has now relaxed this criterion, albeit some conditions, including mandatorily wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

However, it has asked all returnees to “make sincere efforts to get tested and travel along with the certificate”. All returnees, including asymptomatic persons, who are unable to carry out COVID-19 testing before boarding will undergo Rapid Antibody (lgG, lgM) upon their arrival at the airport in Kerala.

This comes after some countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cited limitations in its testing infrastructure. Other countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait said they already have a system in place to screen all passengers and allow only those who test negative to board flights. For example, in UAE, all passengers, regardless of their destination in India, undergo Rapid Antibody tests before departure at the airport and only those who don't have a viral load will be given the ‘fit to travel’ sticker.

After factoring in these inputs, the Kerala government has revised its guidelines for international passengers coming via chartered flights and repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission. The guidelines, issued by Kerala Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta on Tuesday, will come into effect from June 25.

Country-wise guidelines

> Returnees from Oman and Bahrain need to wear N95 mask, face shield, hand gloves and have sanitizers for frequent disinfection of hands during the travel.

> Returnees from Qatar, who have the green status on the mobile app called EHTERAZ, must wear N95 mask, face shield, hand gloves and have sanitizers during the travel. They will undergo COVID test in the arrival airport.

> Returnees from UAE should undergo the COVID test and travel only with the test certificate. They shall wear an N95 mask, face shield, hand gloves and carry hand sanitisers.

> Returnees from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait should wear an N95 mask, face shield and hand gloves and carry sanitizers. They should also wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for their own safety as well as co-passengers. They will undergo COVID test in the arrival airport (in case Kuwait does not have the facility for testing within the stipulated72 hours before travel), and exit only after they are cleared by the Kerala health authorities.

Other guidelines

> If testing is feasible, such passengers should get themselves tested maximum 72 hours before undertaking the travel.

> Every returnee shall enter their details on COVID-19 Jagratha before the journey.

> All the returnees shall undergo screening at the arrival airport.

> All symptomatic persons will be isolated and shifted to hospital.

> Returnees, including asymptomatic persons, who could not do the test before arrival will undergo Rapid Antibody (lgG, lgM) testing on arrival at the airport. Those turning positive for lgM antibodies will undergo mandatory confirmatory tests such as RT-PCR, Gene X-press test or TruNat test.

> Health authorities will take further steps, as per the existing protocols, for all those confirmed coronavirus positive passengers.

> All returnees irrespective of the test results shall undergo the mandatory quarantine of 14 days.

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