Travelling to India: What you need to know about Covid-19 rule updates

From Wednesday, travellers from countries considered ‘at risk’ must quarantine at home for a week while stricter restrictions imposed for travel to Mumbai

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From December 1, travellers arriving at Indian airports from countries identified as ‘at risk’ including South Africa are required to quarantine a home for a week.

This applies to all passengers from ‘at risk’ destinations regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The need to monitor the continuously changing nature of virus must still remain in focus
Indian health ministry

A Covid-19 test is mandatory on arrival at Indian airports. This is in addition to the PCR test taken 72 hours before departure.

The updated list of places from where travellers must follow additional safety precautions on arrival includes South Africa, Botswana Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Israel and countries in Europe including the UK.

India’s health ministry announced the revised guidelines following cases of the new Omicron variant.

Passengers can leave the airport after the test result is confirmed as negative. They must isolate at home for seven days, followed by a test on day eight and a week of self-monitoring.

“The need to monitor the continuously changing nature of the virus and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern must still remain in focus,” India’s health ministry said.

“The existing guidelines for international arrivals in India have been formulated taking a risk-based approach.”

India's health ministry has updated guidelines for travellers arriving from countries considered 'at risk', including South Africa, from December 1. Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India

With the increase in countries reporting the Omicron variant, Indian authorities will also conduct random PCR tests on 5 per cent of travellers from countries which are not in the ‘at risk’ category.

The guidelines will be effective at international airports, seaports and land borders from midnight on Wednesday.

Individual states in India have the authority to issue separate orders to safeguard residents. International travellers to Mumbai, India’s financial hub, will be subject to further restrictions from Wednesday.

Travellers from countries ‘at risk’ will be placed in institutional quarantine for seven days followed by home quarantine for the same period.

Travellers from other countries not on the ‘at risk’ list must home quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in Mumbai or any other city in western Maharashtra state.

Travellers must follow the rules listed below when travelling to India:

Register on Air Suvidha online portal

Before travelling to India, all passengers must submit a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before the journey on the self-declaration form of the online Air Suvidha portal. This must include details of the last 14 days of travel. Register on:

Airlines can board only passengers who have filled in the Air Suvidha form and uploaded a negative PCR test report.

Only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board after thermal screening at the departure airport. All passengers are advised to download the contact tracing Aarogya Setu app on their mobiles.

Do children have to be tested?

Children under the age of five are exempt from testing before departure and on arrival in India. If they develop symptoms on arrival at the airport or at home, they should be tested.

Thermal screening on arrival

All passengers will be screened when they arrive at Indian airports. Passengers found symptomatic during screening will be isolated and taken to a medical facility.

If they test positive, their contacts will be identified and informed. Contacts cover passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three rows behind and cabin crew.

Travellers from ‘at-risk’ countries

They will need a PCR test on arrival and costs should be covered by passengers. Travellers must wait for their test results at the arrival airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight. Once they test negative they are required to home quarantine for a week.

The travellers must be retested on the eighth day of arrival in India and self-monitor for another week.

If they test positive, their samples will be taken for whole genome sequencing and will be taken to an isolation facility.

All contacts of people who test positive will be asked to quarantine at home or undergo institutional quarantine as per the rules of the state government.

Travellers from other countries

Passengers from nations not on the 'at-risk' list can leave the airport and must monitor their health for two weeks after arrival.

Authorities have decided that 5 per cent of passengers will be tested at random at the airport.

These travellers will be taken to the testing area on arrival by the airline staff. The cost of the testing will be borne by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. If they test positive, regular safety protocols will be followed.

Stricter rules for travel to Mumbai

International travellers arriving in Mumbai or any other city in western Maharashtra state will have a different set of more stringent restrictions as per a new state government order effective from Wednesday.

Passengers from countries on the ‘at risk’ list will undergo a week's mandatory institutional quarantine with PCR tests to be carried out on day two, four and seven.

If all the tests are negative, the traveller can home quarantine for a further seven days.

If any of the tests are positive, the passenger will be moved to a hospital.

Passengers from other countries not in the ‘at risk’ category must quarantine at home for 14 days once the mandatory PCR test at the airport is found to be negative.

If the PCR test is positive, the passenger will be taken to a hospital.

International passengers with connecting flights to any other airport in India will be allowed to board only after the PCR test is negative.

The government of Maharashtra state issued the order that is effective immediately to “restrict transmission of the virus variant in the state.”

Updated: December 01, 2021, 12:15 PM