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Maharashtra tightens travel rules amid Omicron scare; makes 7-day institutional quarantine must for returnees from high-risk countries

Domestic passengers also need to show negative RT-PCR reports with samples collected not before 48 hours of arrival, irrespective of their Covid-19 vaccination status.

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The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai has been equipped with 48 registration counters and 40 sampling booths
The Maharashtra government is at high alert as six international passengers from “countries-at-risk” tested positive with Covid-19. As a precautionary measure, the state authorities have tightened rules for all international returnees making quarantine compulsory. Passengers from 11 high-risk countries and Europe has to go through Seven days of institutional quarantine.

Domestic passengers also need to show negative RT-PCR reports with samples collected not before 48 hours of arrival, irrespective of their Covid-19 vaccination status.

As the threat of the spread of Omicron, the new Covid ‘Variant of Concern’ looms large the Union government to has issued revised guidelines for international travellers from 11 high-risk countries and Europe to go for compulsory seven days home quarantine, mandatory test on arrival and retest on 8th day after quarantine.

All nations listed as ‘high-risk’ by the Union Health Ministry are South Africa, Bangladesh, Brazil, Botswana, Mauritius, China, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel.

Meanwhile, the samples of six international passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 has been sent for genome sequencing and all districts were advised to run the S-Gene Target Failure (SGTF) test for immediate identification of suspected Omicron variant in samples.

Additional stringent travel rules by the Maharashtra government

Concerned over the high Covid-19 positivity rate in the last two waves, the state government has issued an additional set of rules for international and domestic travellers. Apart from institutional quarantine, RT-PCR tests need to be done on every alternative day and on testing positive at any time, the person will be shifted to a hospital. Even after testing negative in all the counts, the person needs to go through seven days of home quarantine.

As for passengers from other countries, fourteen days of home quarantine is a must after taking a PCR test on arrival. Even outbound travellers with a halt in Mumbai needs to take the rest and the results will be conveyed to the destination airport and connecting airline. All the passengers need to give details of the travel history of the last 15 days and will be verified by immigration officers. If the information is found to be incorrect, the passenger can be booked under the Disaster Management Act.

Domestic air travellers travelling within Maharashtra also need to carry a negative RT-PCR report and certificate of complete vaccination.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai has been equipped with 48 registration counters and 40 sampling booths, three RT-PCR testing labs and 30 rapid PCR machines to handle the influx of international passengers. The facility will be further upscaled if need be, an official statement said.

Moreover, a large sitting area with a washroom and cafeteria has been allocated to passengers waiting for RT-PCR test results.

Mumbai Omicron preparedness

BMC has 6,000 beds for institution quarantine at present out of which 1000 free beds are in Byculla jumbo centre.20 hotels have been earmarked with 5,000 beds starting at 1,000 per day, BMC Additional Commissioner Suresh Kakani informed IE. If need be the institutional quarantine capacity will be increased by adding other jumbo centres like BKC and NESCO.

Passengers who tested positive so far belong to the Municipal Corporation of Kalyan-Dombivali, Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation, Pune Municipal Corporation and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation area. The health departments are in the process of contact tracing the close contacts of the patients who are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

As for the 40-year-old patient returning from South Africa, his swab sample was sent for the SGTF test which finds if the S gene is missing to confirm the case of Omicron. The sample has been further sent for genome sequencing and 15 of its contacts is being traced. The result of genome sequencing will come not before a week, informed Chief Additional Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas. Meanwhile, the SGTF test kit is being made available at 36 districts for presumptive analysis.

Around 1000 international passengers from African nations landed in Mumbai in the last 15 days, out of which the Mumbai police has so far received a list of 466 of them from the airport, Kakani added.

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