The Central government today issued new rules for international travellers which will be effective from midnight. These were announced following a review of public health preparedness with states and union territories in view of ‘Omicron’.
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Passengers from “at-risk” countries will be tested for Covid on arrival and can’t leave the airport till their RT-PCR test results are available. If found negative, they will undergo a seven-day home quarantine and be re-tested on the 8th day. State officials will physically visit their homes to ensure effective home isolation.
If found positive for the virus, passengers will be isolated and treated, and their samples will immediately be sent to the INSACOG Labs network, a multi-laboratory, multi-agency, pan-India network set up by the government to monitor genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2, for genome sequencing to determine the strain of the virus. States will then undertake contact tracing of these positive individuals and follow up for 14 days.
Passengers from “at-risk” countries are being advised to prepare to wait at the airports till their results are out. The list of countries deemed “at-risk” for now includes the United Kingdom, all 44 countries in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel.
States have been advised to not let their guards down and keep a strict vigil on the international passengers coming to the country through various airports, ports, and land border crossings. The “Test, Track, Treat, Vaccinate” strategy was reemphasised. States have also been advised to ramp up testing as the ‘Omicron’ variant reportedly can’t escape RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests that have been used to detect Covid so far. Strengthening testing infrastructure, strict implementation of testing guidelines, and maintaining a healthy ratio of RT-PCR tests, which has been found to be more effective in detection, have been advised.
The Centre has also advised continued monitoring of areas where recent clusters of positive cases have emerged and promptly send all positive samples for genome sequencing to the INSACOG network. Preparedness of health infrastructure including the availability of ICU, Oxygen beds, ventilators, etc., with a focus on rural areas and pediatric cases have been advised. Health facilities were found to be severely lacking when the second wave of Covid battered India earlier this year.