Oh ! There’s still so much confusion on what is the exact protocol to be followed when travelling to India from abroad. Some say this and some say that! So, what exactly is the official protocol?
Earlier in February this year, the Government of India has issued Guidelines for International Arrivals that replaces all earlier guidelines issued in 2020. This was done to combat the spread of the new mutant variants of COVID. So, here we are going to summarize the tasks you need to do before and during your travel to India. We’ll also tell you what to expect upon arrival in India.
Before going ahead, note that these are the guidelines for Entry into India. Depending on your point of origin, you may have to ensure adherence to other country specific regulations as well. Also, if you are travelling from United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East, you need to adhere to additional instructions. These will also be mentioned below. Don’t miss out on them. Right at the end of this article, you will also find a flowchart that gives you the protocol followed in a glance.
Before and During Travel
- Submit self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal (www.newdelhiairport.in) before the scheduled travel
- Upload a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report (no later than 72 hrs before undertaking the journey)
- Each passenger must submit a declaration (SDF) with respect to authenticity of the report
- Each passenger should also give an undertaking on the portal / the concerned airlines
- Carry print outs of the afore mentioned documents (optional but advised from recent travellers)
- At the time of boarding the flight, only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board after thermal screening.
- Download Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices (Optional but preferred)
- During the flight, required precautions such as wearing of masks, environmental hygiene, respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene etc. are to be observed
On Arrival in India
- Thermal screening would be carried out by the health officials present at the airport
- The self-declaration form filled online to be shown to the airport health staff
- The passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately isolated and taken to medical facility
- All others, will be allowed to leave the airport/ take transit flights and will be required to undertake self-monitoring of their health for 14 days.
Arrival in India without negative report shall be allowed only for those traveling to India in the exigency of death in the family. To be granted the exemption, such passengers need to apply for the same on the online portal (www.newdelhiairport.in) at least 72 hours before boarding. The decision taken by the government as communicated on the online portal will be final. If permitted to travel, you will still have to show the self declaration form on arrival. These passengers will be prioritized for sample collection in the designated area, samples collected and permitted to exit the airport. They shall monitor their health for 14 days (subject to negative test report of the sample taken at the Airport).
International travellers coming/transiting through flights originating from United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East
If you are traveling from or through the United Kingdom, Europe or any country in the Middle East, the following additional rules apply.
- Along with the Self-Declaration Form (SDF) for COVID, you will be required to declare your travel history (of past 14 days).
- While filling SDF, you need to select whether the airport of arrival is your final destination or you intend to travel further. Based on your selection, the receipt of SDF (dispatched online to the transiting travellers) will display “T” (Transit). This receipt needs to be shown to the officials at the airport for segregation.
- Passengers from UK, Brazil and South Africa, who have to take connecting flights, will be tested at the arrival airport. This may take time and hence it is advisable to have a transit time of a minimum 6-8 hours at the entry airport while booking connecting flights.
- All the travellers arriving from/transiting through flights originating in United Kingdom, Europe or Middle East shall be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival at the entry airport.
- Some Airports may offer online booking of the confirmatory molecular test. Digital payments are preferred.
- Passengers who are transiting (“T” in their SDF) are allowed to exit airport only after confirmation of negative test report which may take 6-8 hours.
- If tested negative, passengers will be allowed to take their connecting flights/ exit the airport and would be advised quarantine at home for 7 days. After 7 days, they need to be tested again and if negative, they will be released from quarantine and asked to monitor their health for an additional 7 days.
- Travellers from Brazil, South Africa and United Kingdom, testing positive (either at the airport or subsequently during home quarantine period or their contacts who turn positive) shall be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit coordinated by the respective State Health Authorities. Further tests will be done for the new variants. If found positive, the patient will be isolated and tested again on the 14th day. The patient will be kept isolated until a negative test result is obtained.
- All the contacts (see notes below) of travellers who have been tested positive will be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centers and would be tested on the 7th day.
A few more points……
- Remember to book your tickets only based on the Bilateral/ Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights. This will help avoid unnecessary flight cancellations.
- Contacts of the suspect case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, 3 rows in front and 3 rows behind along with identified Cabin Crew. Also, all the community contacts of those travellers who have tested positive (during home quarantine period) would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate Quarantine Centers for 14 days and tested as per protocol.
- States may consider (if required) additional requirements with regards to testing, quarantine and isolation as per their risk assessment.
- Keep yourself informed about such additional requirements by visiting state official websites in order to avoid any further inconvenience.
We hope this information helps you to be prepared and have a well planned trip to India. If you have travelled recently, do share you experience with us. I’m sure it will benefit the thousands of other travellers hoping to have a hassle free journey.
Sources: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India