Travellers fully vaccinated and coming from a country with which India has reciprocal arrangements for mutual acceptance of WHO approved COVID-19 vaccines shall be allowed to leave the airport and need not undergo home quarantine and testing from October 25, according to the revised guidelines for international arrivals released on Wednesday.
They will, however, have to produce a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report.
If partially or not vaccinated, the travellers need to undertake measures which include submission of sample for post-arrival COVID-19 test at the point of arrival after which they will be allowed to leave the airport, home quarantine for seven days, re-test on the eighth day of arrival in India and if negative, further self monitor their health for next seven days.
These guidelines for international arrivals supersede of all guidelines issued on the subject on and after February 17, 2021, the Union health ministry said.
"The global trajectory of COVID-19 pandemic continues to decline with certain regional variations. The need to monitor the continuously changing nature of virus and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) must still remain in focus. The existing guidelines (issued on 17th February 2021 with subsequent addendums) for international arrivals in India have been formulated taking a risk-based approach.
"In view increasing vaccination coverage across the globe and the changing nature of the pandemic, the existing guidelines for international arrivals in India have been reviewed," the ministry said.
The new document provides protocols to be complied with international travellers as well those to be followed by airlines, points of entry (airports, seaports and land border) for risk profiling of passengers.
This Standard Operating Procedure shall be valid from October 25 till further orders. Based on the risk assessment, this document shall be reviewed from time to time, the ministry said.
According to the ministry, India has signed agreements for mutual recognition of nationally or WHO recognised COVID-19 vaccines with 11 countries - the UK, France, Germany, Nepal, Belarus, Lebanon, Armenia, Ukraine, Belgium, Hungary and Serbia.
Travellers coming from these countries who are fully vaccinated and 15 days have elapsed since completion of COVID-19 vaccination schedule, they shall be allowed to leave the airport and shall self monitor their health for 14 days post arrival, according to the revised guidelines.
While planning for travel, all travellers should submit self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel and upload a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report. This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey, according to the guidelines.
Each passenger shall also submit a declaration with respect to authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution, if found otherwise.
If traveller is coming from a country excluding those covered under these category A (coming from a country with which India has reciprocal arrangements for mutual acceptance of WHO approved COVID-19 vaccines,) they would be required to undergo the measures such as submission of sample for post-arrival COVID-19 test at the point of arrival after which they will be allowed to leave the airport, home quarantine for seven days, re-test on the eighth day of arrival in India and if negative, further selfmonitor of their health for next seven days, irrespective of their COVID-19 vaccination status.
"Travellers from countries excluding those countries at risk, will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days' post arrival. This is applicable to travellers from all countries including countries with which reciprocal arrangements for mutual acceptance of WHO approved COVID-19 vaccines also exist," the guidelines stated.
The list of countries from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India, including post-arrival testing (countries at-risk) are South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand Zimbabwe and countries in Europe including The UK.
If travellers under home quarantine or self-health monitoring develop signs and symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 on re-testing, they will immediately selfisolate and report to their nearest health facility or call national helpline number (1075) or state helpline number.
Thermal screening would be carried out in respect of all the passengers by the health officials present at the airport. The self-declaration form filled online shall be shown to the airport health staff.
The passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately isolated and taken to medical facility according to health protocol. If tested positive, their contacts shall be identified and managed under laid down protocol.
There are countries which have agreement with India on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates of nationally recognised or WHO recognised vaccines. Similarly, there are countries which currently do not have such an agreement with India, but they exempt Indian citizens fully vaccinated with nationally recognised or WHO recognised vaccines.
On the basis of reciprocity, the travellers from all such countries which provide quarantine-free entry to Indians are allowed certain relaxations on arrival (Category A countries).
During travel in-flight announcement about COVID-19 including precautionary measures to be followed shall be made at airports and in flights and during transit. During in-flight crew shall ensure that Covid-appropriate behaviour is followed at all times and if any passenger reports symptoms of COVID-19 during flight, he/she shall be isolated as per protocol, the guidelines stated.
International travellers arriving through seaports/land ports will also have to undergo the same protocol except that facility for online registration is not available for such passengers currently. Such travellers shall submit the self-declaration form to the concerned authorities of government of India at seaports/land ports on arrival.