Maharashtra revises Omicron guidelines for flyers again

The Maharashtra government Thursday revised its mandate for air travellers, cutting down the list of risk countries to three and allowing incoming domestic passengers with a vaccination certificate or a negative RT PCR test.It has still retained its mandate of institutional quarantine for passengers flying in from the three at risk countries.

Maharashtra has named South Africa and Botswana– the first countries where the new infectious, vaccine evasive Omicron variant of the novel Coronovirus was detected–in its list of risk countries. The third country is Zimbabwe.

It has not included countries such as UK, European countries, Hong Kong and Singapore in the list. In its circular, the government said the categorisation of countries is dynamic and depends on developments around the virus.

Any passenger flying in from one of the three countries or who has travelled to them in the last 15 days is considered at risk.

The incoming passengers from risk countries have to undergo institutional quarantine of 7 days and undergo an RT PCR test on the seventh day, said the circular on Thursday. A circular Wednesday had mandated all passengers to undergo RT PCR tests on arrival and the second, fourth and seventh day after arrival.

The Maharashtra government had Wednesday mandated all domestic passengers, whether or not vaccinated, would have to undergo RT-PCR tests 72 hours before departure. On Thursday, it said passengers can carry either vaccine certificates or negative RT PCR test results, meaning inoculated passengers will not have undergo tests.

The Central government last Sunday announced new rules for international passengers, in light of growing concerns around the Omicron variant. All arriving international passengers will have to upload negative RT PCR tests and 14 day plans of travel after coming to India on the state-run Air Suvidha portal. On Wednesday it cancelled plans to allow resumption of full fledged international flights from Dec 15, as it had announced last Friday. Also Wednesday, the Centre also wrote to the states to refrain from issuing their own guidelines.

Maharashtra in its Thursday circular said the Centre’s guidelines would be “minimum restrictions” on domestic and international passengers.

Maharashtra’s Wednesday circular earned the criticism of travel companies and airlines who said divergent rules from the Centre and states would create confusion among passengers, as it had during the second wave of the Covid19 pandemic.

Karnataka which had mandated RT PCR tests and home quarantine for all arriving international passengers partly rolled back the guidelines on Wednesday evening.

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