Thursday, February 10, 2022

Union Health Ministry issues fresh COVID-19 guidelines for international arrivals in India

International Travel guidelines: The Union Ministry of Health and Family Affairs on Thursday issued a fresh set of guidelines for International Arrivals. These guidelines will now supersede all of the guidelines issued in this respect on or after January 20, 2022. The guidelines, listing out the protocol to be followed by international travellers along with airlines and ports of entry. According to the Ministry’s order, the guidelines will come into effect on February 14, i.e. Monday at 12:01 am, and stay in place till further notice in this regard is issued.

As per the new guidelines, travellers wishing to come to India would need to fill complete and factual information in the online self-declaration form available on the Air Suvidha portal, before the scheduled travel. This form would also require travellers to fill in the details of their travel taken within the past 14 days.

Travellers would moreover be required to upload either a certificate verifying the completion of the primary COVID-19 vaccination schedule or upload a negative RT-PCR report for a test conducted within 72 hours before the commencement of the journey. They would also need to give a declaration that the report submitted is authentic, making them liable to criminal prosecution if it is found to be forged.

International travellers wishing to travel to India would also have to submit an undertaking to the Government of India via the concerned airlines before they can undertake the journey. In this undertaking, they would have to submit their readiness of abiding to the directions issued by the appropriate authorities post their arrival in India with respect to home or institutional quarantining or self monitoring of health, as required.

Passengers will be provided Do’s and Don’ts along with their tickets by the concerned agents or airlines, so that they can undertake required measures to travel to the country. Airlines have also been instructed in the guidelines to ensure that only those passengers who have filled in their Air Suvidha forms and uploaded either the vaccination certificate or their negative RT-PCR are allowed to board. However, of these passengers, only those who are found to be asymptomatic after a thermal screening shall be allowed to travel to India.

All of the passengers have also been directed to download the Aarogya Seu app.

While in air, flights would be required to make announcements about precautionary measures that needed to be followed, and similar announcements also need to be made at airports and during transit. The in-flight crew has also been instructed to follow COVID appropriate behaviour throughout the duration of the journey. Apart from this, any traveller reporting symptoms of COVID-19 mid-air would be isolated according to the procedure.

The flights would also need to make announcements detailing the testing requirements and the people who need to undergo such tests so that arrival airports do not see passenger congestion.

While deboarding, physical distancing must be ensured, and all passengers would have to undergo thermal screening. Moreover, the passengers would need to show their self declaration forms to the airport health staff.

All the passengers who are found to be symptomatic during screening would be immediately isolated as per medical procedure for further procedure, and if any such passenger tests positive, their contacts would be traced, and further contact tracing protocol would be followed.

Random post-arrival tests would also be conducted at the airports, with 2% of the passengers being tested. Airlines would be responsible for the identification of passengers who would be part of this random testing. These travellers shall submit their samples and leave the airport. In case any of the passengers test positive for the COVID-19, their samples would be sent to INSACOG laboratory network for genome sequencing.

10/02/22 Bulbul Dhawan/Financial Express

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