Maharashtra Chief Secretary Debashish Chakraborty on Wednesday said that the state government will not amend or revise its travel guidelines imposed because of concern about the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, The Indian Express reported.
Earlier in the day, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan urged the state to align its travel rules with the Centre’s Standard Operating Procedure to ensure uniform implementation of guidelines across the country.
Citing the Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Diseases Act, Chakraborty told The Indian Express that the state government was empowered to impose additional conditions to prevent the spread of the virus.
“So the state, acting in accordance with its authority, has decided not to mend or revise the current guidelines issued for international passengers,” he added.
The chief secretary also claimed that Bhushan’s letter to the state was an advisory, and “not a compulsion”.
“There are basic requirements that need to be observed, which we are following,” Chakraborty said. “In future, if any changes need to be made, considering the local situation and convenience of international passengers, we will consider them.”
Maharashtra Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray also defended the state’s stricter guidelines for air passengers, saying that the state was “hit first and the hardest” by Covid-19 and so it needed to be cautious, NDTV reported.
“For us [Maharashtra government], what comes first and matters the most is safety of citizens,” Thackeray told the channel. He said that Maharashtra has only recently come out of the second wave of Covid-19 and that the virus is still around.
The minister said that the state had revised its coronavirus protocol, but added that the guidelines will still be different from those issued by the Centre.
Maharashtra’s travel rules
In an order on Tuesday, the Maharashtra government made Covid testing and quarantine mandatory for all passengers arriving at the Mumbai airport, irrespective of whether they arrived from “at-risk” countries.
The state government added that RT-PCR tests will be conducted on flyers from “at-risk” countries thrice – on the second, fourth and seventh days after their arrival.
The state had also made RT-PCR negative test reports mandatory for all domestic passengers on Wednesday. However, later Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope told the Hindustan Times that there was no logic in imposing this particular rule.
“We have deferred the clause which mandated negative RT-PCR tests for domestic passengers. The necessary order will be issued in the immediate future,” he added. “I think we have to fall in line with the Government of India’s guidelines.”
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.