Centre Issues New Guidelines for International Arrivals From UK, Brazil and South Africa

The guidelines have been issued in the context of the spread of mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 in many countries.

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday issued new guidelines for international arrivals amid the spread of mutant variants of coronavirus in many countries, making tests mandatory on arrival for those travelling from the UK, Europe and the Middle East.

The new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will come into effect from 23:59 hours on February 22.

In the context of the spread of mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2 in many countries, the civil aviation ministry in consultation with the health and family welfare ministry has issued new guidelines for international arrivals, according to an official release.

Three variants, B.1.1.7 which originated in the UK, B.1.135 which originated in South African and the P.1 variant which originated in Brazil, have so far been detected in 86, 44 and 15 countries respectively. These variants have demonstrated increased transmissibility, raising concerns of another spike in cases.

The fresh guidelines cover all international travellers coming/transiting through flights originating in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Though no new strain has been detected in the Middle East, travellers from Brazil and South Africa transit through the region to reach India. India does not have direct flights with Brazil and South Africa.

The government has suspended international scheduled flights until February 28. Overseas flights to and from India are currently operated as per air bubble agreements with various countries.

All international travellers arriving in India will have to present a negative RT-PCR test, conducted not more than 72 hours before undertaking the journey. For travellers coming from destinations other than the UK, Europe and the Middle East, this condition will be waived if they are travelling due to exigent circumstances, such as the death of a family member.

Airlines have also been asked to segregate passengers originating from the UK, Europe and the Middle East to facilitate authorities in following due protocol. Those arriving from these countries will mandatorily be subjected to a self-paid confirmatory molecular test.

If any person arriving from these countries tests positive for COVID-19, the advisory says their samples will be taken for genome sequencing the strain. If they are found to be infected with a variant strain, their treatment will be done in separate isolation.

India has so far reported about 11 million coronavirus cases and more than 156,000 deaths. Cases have come down sharply since a mid-September peak of nearly 100,000 a day.