The Coronavirus pandemic has had the entire world in its grasp causing havoc for pretty much everyone around the world for what seems like forever now, and it does not seem to let go so easily. A new Coronavirus variant, which is also known as the Omicron variant, and formally known as the B.1.1.529 variant, has been detected in South Africa. This, as a result, has sent the entire world on alert with many countries closing their borders to international travel altogether. India, on the other hand, has recently announced that it will resume commercial flight operations from December 15.
While the decision to resume flights may be altered in the coming days, as of now, there will be some flights coming to India from South Africa. And India has already put in place some protocols for such flights.
As for the international flight operations, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoFHW) will categorise the countries in three sections and will allow flight capacities accordingly. Those are –
– Countries enlisted as “AT RISK” and an air bubble has been formalised with the country: Can operate at 75% capacity.
– Countries enlisted as “AT RISK” and an air bubble has not been formalised with the country: Can operate at 50% capacity
– Countries not enlisted as “AT RISK”: Can operate at 100% capacity.
Additionally, the MoFHW has also shared the list of countries, that have been identified as Countries at-risk, from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India, including post-arrival testing.
1. Countries in Europe including The United Kingdom
2. South Africa
8. New Zealand
11. Hong Kong
And this brings us to the flights taking place between South Africa and India. The ministry has released a list of countries with which the Government of India has an agreement for mutual recognition of vaccination certificates for individuals fully vaccinated with Nationally recognized or WHO recognized COVID-19 vaccine, and those exempting Indian citizens fully vaccinated with Nationally recognized or WHO recognised vaccines. This list consists of 99 countries, 17 of which are from Africa. These are:
4. South Sudan
13. South Sudan
14. Sierra Leone
As of now, the situation is rapidly developing with several states coming out with their own set of guidelines for international passengers and we would highly recommend travellers to contact their airport of arrival in India and understand what the requirements are.
At the time of publishing this article, however, here are some key guidelines for passengers that have been put in place by the following states.
Hospitals have been asked to be fully prepared to handle an emergency situation amidst the rising scare of the new variant.
Passengers coming in from an “at-risk” country will have to undergo a Covid test at arrival and passengers will be allowed to leave the airport only after being declared negative. Post this, there is a 7-day at-home quarantine that has to be followed and the passengers can only step out after that, once they have tested negative at the end of the quarantine period.
The Gujarat government has announced a mandatory RT-PCR test for international travellers. Post this, there is a 7-day at-home quarantine that has to be followed and the passengers can only step out after that, once they have tested negative at the end of the quarantine period. Even if the traveller from ‘at-risk’ country is fully vaccinated, they have to undergo a 14-day at-home quarantine.
All international passengers have to take an RT-PCR test within 72 hours of arrival and upload it to the Airsuvidha portal.
On top of these, several other states are preparing to up their surveillance and be ready for an emergency situation. Once again, we would advise all travellers to contact their arrival airport and inquire about the process before boarding their flights as it is a developing situation.