While India’s list of air travel bubble countries is growing, so is the number of cases in a number of European countries. In the wake of this, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare has tweaked the entry conditions for passengers travelling to India. Those who want to skip the mandatory quarantine on arrival must submit a negative RT-PCR report from a test taken no longer than 72 hours before they travel. This is tighter than the 96-hour window that was earlier in place. Here’s the latest:
Who can travel to India?
All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) cardholders holding passports of any country, as well as foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose, can travel to India on Vande Bharat Mission flights under air bubble agreements. But this does not extend to tourists.
Is quarantine mandatory?
- Those arriving without a COVID-19 negative report at airports where a testing facility is not available shall be taken to a suitable institutional quarantine facility (to be arranged for by the state or union territory governments) to undergo a mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine and seven-day home quarantine. However, there are several scenarios in which the quarantine can be waived.
- Pregnant women, those with a death in the family; or suffering from a serious illness; or parent(s) with children below the age of 10 are allowed to skip the institutional quarantine and isolate at home for 14 days. To seek an exemption, they need to apply for the same on the online portal at least 72 hours before boarding. Exemptions are granted at the discretion of the government.
- Travellers can also seek an exemption from institutional quarantine and home quarantine by submitting an RT-PCR test report that shows them COVID-19 negative. This test should have been taken no more than 72 hours before the flight and the report must be uploaded on the portal for consideration.
- They can also be exempt from both forms of quarantine if they take the RT-PCR test on arrival at the airport—the facility is currently available in Mumbai and Delhi.
Where can one get tested on arrival?
- Arriving international passengers will have an option of getting an RT-PCR/ TrueNat CBNAAT (including GeneXpert) testing done at the entry airport, wherever available.
- If the test result is negative, i.e. if they are COVID-free, the passenger can take an onward domestic connection without needing to be quarantined at the city of entry airport. Those who are exiting the airport will be exempt from the institutional quarantine and can go into home quarantine as per local regulations
Quarantine rules in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai
- Delhi: Pregnant women, those with a death in the family; or suffering from a serious illness; or parent(s) with children below the age of 10 can seek an exemption from institutional quarantine by submitting a COVID negative test report on arrival. They can then undergo home quarantine for 14 days.
- Mumbai: Those with a negative RT-PCR report can home quarantine for 14 days. Those without have to undergo seven days of institutional quarantine followed by seven days of quarantine home quarantine.
- Bengaluru: All passengers will be sent to home quarantine for 14 days. Business/short-term visitors who arrive with a negative RT-PCR test report are exempted from quarantine.
- Chennai: All international arrivals have to undergo 14 days of home quarantine.
- Kolkata: A negative COVID test report will have to be uploaded on the online portal at least 24 hours prior to departure. These passengers will be allowed to undergo home quarantine for 14 days. For those arriving on a direct London to Kolkata flight, an RT-PCR report is no longer mandatory. Facility for swab collection by designated lab is being provided at Kolkata airport. Passengers have to wait for 6 to 8 hours at a designated waiting hall at the airport till the report arrives. If it turns out to be positive, passengers will have to go into institutional quarantine. If it’s negative, they will be allowed to go into a 14-day home quarantine.
- Hyderabad: Passengers who have compelling reasons/cases of human distress such as pregnancy, death in the family, serious illness and parent(s) with children aged 10 years or below are exempt from institutional quarantine and can home quarantine for 14 days. Even those who arrive with a negative COVID report have this exemption.
Here are other guidelines for international arrivals in India:
- All travellers should submit a self-declaration form on the online portal at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel. Travellers who haven’t filled this form can do so on the flight and submit a copy to health and immigration officials on arrival.
- They should also submit an undertaking on the portal, or to the Ministry of Civil Aviation through their airline, that they will abide by an authority’s decision for them to undergo institutional or home quarantine or self-monitor their health for 14 days.
- All passengers must download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones.
- All passengers will have to go through thermal screening at whichever airport they arrive at. They will need to show the self-declaration form they filled online to airport health staff at this point.
- Passengers found symptomatic during screening will be immediately isolated and taken to a medical facility as per the health protocols in place.
- Post thermal screening, passengers who have been exempted from institutional quarantine need to show the decision indicated on the online portal at the respective state counters on their cell phones or in other modes before they are allowed to proceed to home quarantine for 14 days.
International passengers arriving at seaports and land ports
- International passengers arriving through seaports/land ports will also have to undergo the same protocol as above, except that the facility for online registration is not available for such passengers at the moment.
- Such passengers will have to submit a self-declaration form to the concerned Government of India authorities at the ports on arrival.