MUMBAI: India has scrapped Covid-19 testing and quarantine for fully vaccinated passengers from 82 countries, including the US and UK. According to new guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday, India has also removed its classification of “at risk” countries. The new standards will come into effect from 12:01 a.m. on February 14.
The new guidelines will replace those issued on January 20, which required passengers from all countries to undergo an RT-PCR test within 72 hours of travel. The January 20 guidelines are currently being followed and under this, passengers from “at risk” countries must undergo another RT-PCR test upon arrival. If they were negative, they should be quarantined at home for a week and undergo another RT-PCR test on the eighth day of their arrival in India.
From Monday next week, however, fully vaccinated passengers from 82 countries can fly to India without testing or quarantine, if they are vaccinated and without symptoms, that is. The 82 countries include those that have reached an agreement with India on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates of nationally recognized or WHO-recognized vaccines, according to the guideline.
“Similarly, there are countries that do not currently have such an agreement with India, but they exempt Indian citizens fully vaccinated with nationally recognized or WHO recognized vaccines. Based on the reciprocity, travelers from the only countries that offer quarantine-free entry to Indians will be allowed to relax under a certificate of completion of the full primary vaccination schedule of Covid-19 vaccination,” he said, adding that the list of countries whose fully vaccinated passengers are allowed to travel to India without testing will be updated from time to time.
The travel industry welcomed this decision. “Such a move will instill confidence in the industry, as well as in travelers, who would view India as a must-visit destination, especially post-pandemic. It will also help Indian tourism regain and strengthen its pre-Covid market share. .,” said Jay Bhatia, vice president of the Travel Agents Association of India.
According to the latest guidelines, passengers from 82 countries, including Sweden, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Spain, the United States, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Thailand, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Qatar, Canada, Bangladesh, Oman and Australia, among others, will only need to show proof of vaccination.
“All travelers will be required to submit a self-declaration form on Air Suvidha’s online portal (https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration) prior to intended travel, including travel details of the past 14 days,” the directive said, referring to an existing standard will continue.
Passengers from these 82 countries who are not vaccinated will be required to undergo an RT-PCR test within 72 hours of travel and upload the test report to the government portal. Those who have vaccination certificates will only have to upload said document to the portal.
“Each passenger must also submit a statement regarding the authenticity of the report and will be subject to criminal prosecution, if found otherwise. They must also pledge on the portal or otherwise to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of the India, through the relevant airlines before they are allowed to undertake the journey that they would comply with the decision of the relevant government authority any post arrival requirements to undergo home/institutional/quarantine monitoring of their own health, where appropriate,” the directive adds.
Upon arrival, a thermal check will be carried out at the airport, the self-declaration form completed online will be presented to the airport health staff, he said. Passengers found to be symptomatic during screening should be immediately isolated and taken to a medical facility in accordance with health protocol. “If the test is positive, their contacts should be identified and managed in accordance with established protocol. The contacts of the suspected case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, 3 rows ahead and 3 rows behind with the identified cabin crew.” said the directive.
Apart from this, about 2% of the total number of passengers on the flight will be subject to random testing after arrival at the airport on arrival. If these travelers test positive, their samples should be sent for genomic testing, they should be processed/isolated according to established standard protocol. “All travelers will self-monitor their health for the next 14 days after arrival,” he adds.