This Article is From Dec 02, 2021

Centre-States Meet Today To Review Omicron Rules At Airports: 10 Points

Researchers are still working on establishing if Omicron is more lethal than earlier variants and, crucially, if it can be countered by existing vaccines

Omicron: The variant, first tagged as B.1.1.529, is the latest coronavirus strain to be detected (File)

New Delhi: Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will meet state and UT officials to review Covid testing and surveillance measures at international airports. India yesterday enforced strict rules for foreign arrivals, particularly from nations with Omicron cases.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. Today's meeting was called after long queues and lengthy waiting times for Covid test results at international airports marked the first day of India's new Omicron travel rules. There was also uncertainty over testing and quarantine protocols in Maharashtra, which announced a more stringent set of rules than that by the centre.

  2. Maharashtra had directed all foreign arrivals to take RT-PCR tests. Passengers from 'at risk' nations had to undergo seven days' institutional quarantine with three self-paid tests. Others had to return a negative test on arrival and then faced 14 days' home quarantine. The state also directed domestic fliers (those from other states) to hold a negative PCR test dated to within 48 hours of travel.

  3. These rules were challenged by the centre, which has urged Maharashtra to "align with orders issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare" to ensure uniform implementation of rules. However, Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray last night told NDTV the state needed to be careful because it had been hardest hit by Covid.

  4. Nevertheless, last evening Maharashtra revised regulations for international passengers - from countries 'at risk' and others. Mandatory institutional quarantine for those from 'at risk' countries was deferred till 12 am Friday (i.e., midnight today).

  5. The rule requiring domestic passengers to hold negative RT-PCR tests dated to within 48 hours of the journey remains in place at this time, despite the centre's disapproval. Under existing central rules, fully vaccinated domestic travellers need not carry negative tests.

  6. These rules are being revised, Mr Thackeray told NDTV yesterday. "The revision of guidelines is being considered and the picture will be clear by this evening," Maharashtra Chief Secretary Debashish Chakravarty was quoted by news agency PTI today.

  7. Under guidelines announced by the centre, from yesterday all passengers from 'at risk' countries have been tested for COVID-19 on arrival. They must return a negative result to leave the airport. Two per cent (selected at random) of arrivals from other countries are also being tested. They can leave before the result is declared.

  8. The new rules led to long queues and chaos at airports in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, where incoming foreign passengers had to line up (and pay) for Covid tests. Passengers opting for the antigen test had to wait for 2.5 to three hours, while those taking the PCR test had to spend nearly six hours. This was in addition to completing customs and immigration formalities.

  9. This morning Maharashtra confirmed four Covid cases in passengers from South Africa, Mauritius and London (x2). All four reached India before the new Omicron travels rules, are asymptomatic and are in institutional quarantine. Yesterday Maharashtra and Delhi announced six Covid cases each among travellers from 'at risk' countries. A passenger from South Africa and two family members tested positive in Chandigarh. Samples have been sent for genome sequencing.

  10. As of November 26, the 'at risk' countries are those in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel. Of these, some European countries (including the UK, Germany, Spain and Belgium), South Africa, Israel and Hong Kong have confirmed Omicron cases, as does Japan. The United States today confirmed its Omicron Covid case.

With input from PTI

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