The Ministry of Civil Aviation today issued revised Covid guidelines for passengers arriving in international flights, ahead of RT-PCR negative test report being made compulsory for travellers from six countries, including China and Thailand.
From January 1, 2023, a pre-departure RT-PCR negative test report will be mandatory for passengers coming in all international flights from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Japan.
Airlines are directed to modify their check-in functionalities to incorporate the changes and issue boarding passes only to those international passengers travelling from the six countries who have submitted self-declaration forms on the Air Suvidha portal, the ministry said in a communication.
"Air Suvidha portal self-declaration has been made operational for passengers travelling in all international flights from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Japan, with a provision to allow these international travellers arriving in India to upload negative RT-PCR test reports as well as to submit self-declaration form," it said.
RT-PCR testing should have been done 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.
The current practice of random testing of 2 per cent of arriving passengers in each international flight will also continue.
These decisions have been taken amid rising cases of coronavirus infections in various parts of the world and reports regarding the circulation of variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the six countries.
The ministry on Friday sent the communication regarding the revised guidelines to all scheduled commercial airlines, airport operators, and chief secretaries/ administrators of states/Union Territories, among others.
On December 29, there were 83,003 international passenger arrivals, as per the latest official data.
How the government has responded to surging Covid-19 cases?
The proposed tightening of Covid guidelines and warning of a fresh surge come days after Mandaviya asked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to consider suspending the Bharat Jodo Yatra if Covid-19 protocols could not be followed.
The Yatra, currently on winter break, will resume on January 3.
The government has already sounded an alert and asked states and Union territories to prepare for any eventuality.
Following the surge, the government made random coronavirus testing mandatory for 2 per cent of passengers arriving in each international flight from Saturday.
Modi and Mandaviya have held meetings to assess India's preparedness to deal with a fresh surge in cases.
Mock drills were held at health facilities across India on Tuesday to check operational readiness to deal with any spurt in Covid-19 infection, with Mandaviya saying the country has to remain alert and prepared as cases are rising in the world.
The latest spike in cases is being driven by Omicron sub-variant BF.7.
What do the experts say?
The official sources said the transmissibility of this BF.7 sub-variant is very high. A person infected with the sub-variant can further infect 16 persons.
Anurag Agrawal, director of the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) said the likelihood of a new big Covid-19 wave in India is very low.
"No quick steps are required right now beyond what is already done," Agrawal told PTI.
Satyajit Rath, adjunct faculty at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, said, "There is no reason to expect that the Chinese situation, which is specifically shaped by the zero-Covid policies that the country implemented for almost three years, will predict anything in India," said Satyajit Rath, adjunct faculty at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune.
China has been witnessing thousands of cases daily in the last few weeks. On Wednesday, India logged 188 new coronavirus infections with a daily positivity rate of 0.14 per cent and the weekly positivity rate recorded at 0.18 per cent, the Union Health Ministry said.
"The Indian situation, with widespread actual infection in addition to vaccination, is quite different. And the Covid virus is after all spreading and therefore mutating in communities worldwide, not just in China, so new variants are emerging everywhere," Rath told reporters.
(With PTI Inputs)