Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government to align its travel guidelines imposed to keep the Omicron variant of coronavirus at bay with the Centre’s rules, News18 reported.
This came a day after the Maharashtra government made Covid testing and quarantine mandatory for all passengers arriving at the Mumbai airport, irrespective of whether they arrived from countries deemed “at-risk”, according to the Centre.
In its Tuesday order, the state government said that all international passengers arriving from “at-risk” countries will have to undergo a mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine. RT-PCR tests will be conducted on these flyers thrice – on the second, fourth and seventh days after their arrival.
These guidelines will be effective from December 2 midnight, an official statement said since many passengers had already finalised travel plans and many could be on the move.
It also directed passengers from countries not on the Centre’s list of “at-risk” nations to take RT-PCR tests. If tested negative, travellers have to be in home quarantine for 14 days.
On Wednesday, in another order, Mumbai made RT-PCR negative test reports mandatory for all domestic passengers. The tests should be taken within 72 hours of departure, and in exceptional cases, testing may be allowed on arrival at the Mumbai airport.
Flagging these guidelines, Bhushan urged the Maharashtra government to align it with the rules issued by the health ministry to ensure uniform implementation across the country.
The Maharashtra government justified the mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine decision saying that even the RT-PCR test, considered to be the “gold standard” for Covid-19 screening, often returns false negatives – wrongly indicating that the infection is absent, NDTV reported. The state argued that was critical to ensure passengers were free of infection before allowing them to move further.
According to the Centre’s guidelines, passengers coming from “at-risk” countries will be tested for Covid on arrival and they cannot leave the airport till their RT-PCR results are available. If tested negative, travellers have to be in home quarantine for seven days followed by a re-test on the eighth day. These rules came into effect from Wednesday.