Omicron variant: States gear up to implement new airport protocols

New guidelines require mandatory RT-PCR tests for all passengers from ‘at risk’ countries

States across the country have scurried to implement the testing, tracing and quarantine for international passengers from a few countries where the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been recorded, on advice from the Union Ministry of Health.

Some States have already implemented these procedures, while others will start implementing these restrictions from December 1, and some others are still awaiting instructions from the State government.

While Standard Operating Procedures (SPOs) already mandate that an international passenger uploads a negative RT-PCR report along with a self-declaration form (SDF) in the Air Suvidha portal, in the light of a new variant emerging, further steps have been put in place. The list of countries at risk is available in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website (; passengers coming from these ‘at risk’ countries, have to undergo an RT-PCR test on arrival. If they test negative, they must quarantine themselves at home for seven days, and a repeat test will have to be done on the eighth day.

However, the samples of those passengers testing positive will be sent for genomic testing at INSACOG laboratories and they would be admitted in an isolation facility as notified by the State government. This compulsory testing of passengers is only for those countries which have been notified as ‘at risk’, whereas for travellers coming from countries which are not designated ‘at risk’, a random sample for RT-PCR of 5% of travellers is to be carried out on arrival.

Watch | All about the new Omicron coronavirus variant


Sources said, since November 10, nearly 1,000 passengers from South Africa have arrived at the Mumbai International Airport. The BMC’s guidelines state that passengers arriving at the Mumbai airport will have to get their passport scrutinised at the immigration counter for travel history of the last two weeks. The Maharashtra government is likely to make a negative RT-PCR test mandatory for entry of domestic travelers.

A senior official of the Chennai Airport said the idea is to work out a system that will not inconvenience international passengers too much. The airport had ceased testing of international passengers two months ago, but will restart from December 15, when full fledged commercial operations were scheduled to resume. Tamil Nadu has three labs that can do genetic testing, sources said.

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority had decided to conduct 100% RT-PCR testing of passengers from High Risk Countries, followed by genome sequencing of the positive cases & mandatory isolation/quarantine as per the guidelines laid down by the Central Government, according to Raj Niwas sources.

Andhra Pradesh Health, Medical and Family Welfare Minister Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas said all international passengers arriving at airports in the State have to undergo Rt-PCR test starting from Tuesday, in tune with the Union government’s guidelines regarding Omicron variant.

COVID-19 tests on passengers coming from ‘countries at-risk’ and who land at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA), Shamshabad, Telangana, has begun. However, there are no direct flights from the countries at-risk to the airport yet, officials said.

If any of the passengers test positive, they will be isolated at Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences (TIMS), Gachibowli, Hyderabad.

In Kerala, authorities said travellers from ‘at risk’ countries will be under special surveillance at the State’s airports, and the testing and quarantine protocols will be followed. Health Minister Veena George said that more health staff have been deployed in airports as part of enhancing testing and surveillance. Separate hospital wards would be readied for those international travellers who test positive for COVID-19.

The health department of Karnataka has announced that people who arrived from Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong, in the last 15 days will be tracked and subject to RT-PCR tests, apart from testing those who come from ‘at risk’ nations.

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