India to make on-arrival Covid-19 tests mandatory from at-risk countries

Decision comes after man returned from South Africa and tested positive for coronavirus

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India will make on-arrival Covid-19 testing mandatory for travellers from at-risk countries, as fears grow over the Omicron variant, barely two weeks after it eased travel restrictions.

The new guidelines will come into effect from Wednesday after authorities in Mumbai isolated a 32-year-old traveller from South Africa who tested positive for the infection. The man was being investigated for a suspected case of Omicron.

All travellers coming into the country will be subjected to additional measures, including disclosing their travel history and negative RT-PCR tests before their arrival, the Health Ministry said.

It said five per cent of flight passengers will be subjected to random testing at the airports.

Passengers from “at-risk” countries – including South Africa where the new virus strain has emerged – will have to undergo mandatory testing and a seven-day home quarantine.

Those found positive for the virus will be isolated for stringent institutional quarantine.

“The existing guidelines for international arrivals in India have been formulated taking a risk-based approach. Thermal screenings of all passengers from at-risk countries would be carried out,” the ministry said.

The new rules have come amid a government plan to resume scheduled international flights from next month.

It had planned to allow unrestricted access to vaccinated foreign tourists after halting international travel for 20 months following a nationwide lockdown in March 2020.

India has gradually emerged from the devastating wave in April and May, blamed on the Delta variant that killed about 250,000 people and infected more than 20 million.

The government has also directed all the states to step up testing, surveillance and monitoring of hotspots amid worries of the new coronavirus strain.

In Thane near Mumbai city where the traveller from South Africa tested positive, health officials said all the international passengers will be tested.

“He travelled from Cape Town to Dubai to Delhi to Mumbai. We sent his samples for genome sequencing today and the report is expected to be out next week. The patient is asymptotic.

“We have tested eight contacts who are all negative. We have advised everyone who has travelled from abroad to get tested,” Pratibha Panpatil, Chief Medical Officer of the corporation told The National.

The Health Ministry confirmed 8,300 fresh infections and 236 deaths on Monday.

Updated: November 29, 2021, 10:58 AM