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At Airports, New Omicron Travel Rules – PCR Tests, Quarantine

Omicron Variant: Existing tests - both rapid antigen and PCR - can pick up signs of Covid even if the infecting strain is Omicron, the government has said

Starting today, airports across the country have enforced strict quarantine and testing rules for international passengers, including those from ‘at risk’ countries, amid growing concern over the entry and spread of the Omicron Covid strain.

At Mumbai airport, all international passengers from ‘in danger’ nations will go through compulsory seven-day institutional quarantine, during which time they should require three RT-PCR tests – on the second, fourth and seventh days after arrival. They will be allowed to leave only after returning negative test results.

Two percent of travelers (chose aimlessly) from nations not considered ‘in danger’ rundown will be tried for COVID-19 on appearance. On the off chance that these are negative, they can leave the air terminal. Notwithstanding, all travelers from nations not ‘in danger’ should submit to seven days of home quarantine as an extra wellbeing measure.

The order mandating institutional quarantine (at the passenger’s expense) for arrivals from ‘at risk’ nations was released late last night, leading to concern about people being caught unaware and large crowds at the airport. Institutional quarantine is needed, the state has since explained because tests conducted immediately after arrival often return false-negative results.

Information at this time indicates that international passengers arriving last night (immediately after the order) were also given Covid tests and they were allowed to go after returning a negative result.

Toward the beginning of today the Maharashtra Health Department said six passengers arriving from ‘at risk’ countries had already tested Covid positive. All six are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic and their samples have been sent for genome sequencing. Contact tracing is underway, the Health Department said.

At Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport all international arrivals are being tried for COVID-19, with a negative result needed to leave the airport. All international passengers must still, however, follow home quarantine protocol for seven days, after which they must take another RT-PCR Test.

Delhi airport tweeted this morning to say the process of screening international arrivals from ‘at-risk countries is running smoothly. “Total 1,013 passengers from four ‘at risk’ flights… successfully completed arrival formalities due to availability of Rapid PCR Test along with RTPCR test,” airport authorities said.

At the Bengaluru airport, passengers from ‘at risk’ countries should take a COVID-19 test and won’t be permitted to leave unless it is negative. If that is the case, they must still follow home quarantine rules for seven days and take another test on the eighth. A second negative result will still require self-monitoring of their health for the next seven days.

In Chennai, all travelers from ‘at risk’ countries are being tried and can possibly leave if they return a negative result. Similarly the As with the Mumbai airport, only two percent of passengers from other countries are being tested, and these travelers can leave without waiting for the results. So far, Chennai airport has said 88 international passengers have been tested and all 88 have returned negative results.

Existing tests – both rapid antigen and PCR – can pick up signs of Covid even if the infecting strain is Omicron, the government has said. Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has said the Omicron variant – which the WHO has warned poses a “very high” global risk – is not yet in India, but a senior ICMR doctor told NDTV the strain is likely already here.