The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has sparked fresh concerns across the globe with the countries scrambling to announce travel curbs in a bid to stem the transmission of the new strain that has been called a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organization (WHO). This has put the travel plans of people across the world in limbo.
With Christmas and New Year around the corner, the governments are instituting new travel curbs as fears around Omicron grow. The United Kingdom (UK), United States (US), Denmark, South Africa and Norway have registered the highest number of Omicron cases.
The UK alone constitutes around 50 per cent of Omicron cases detected worldwide. Meanwhile, other countries that have reported Omicron cases comprise Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Namibia, Russia, and South Korea.
Also Read: Omicron concerns and holiday season slow down back-to-office plans
Talking about India, with the rising number of omicron cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to hold a meeting to review the current situation in the country on Thursday. For Indians planning to travel abroad or within India for Christmas-New Year vacations, it is important to know the curbs put in place by several countries and states within the country amid the Omicron scare.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on December 9 said all international flights under the existing Bubble Agreements will continue to operate till January 2022.
List of countries India has an air bubble agreement with - Read here
This means all commercial flights to nations with which India has an existing such arrangement will operate according to schedule. However, several countries have announced fresh curbs, travel and otherwise, to check the further spread of Omicron.
Planning a trip to somewhere in India? Check the detailed pamphlet on COVID-19 norms for arrivals in states/UTs across the country released by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Read here.
State-wise travel guidelines for domestic travellers.
The state government had earlier this month announced that in addition to the mandatory testing on arrival for all international travellers from 12 countries where the virus has been detected so far, two weeks of institutional quarantine will also be compulsory. Other overseas arrivals will mandatorily have to undergo home isolation for two weeks.
Rules for domestic travellers: -
1. All arriving passengers in Goa are required to carry a COVID negative test report for a test done a maximum of 72 hours prior to entering the state. The report shall mean RT-PCR/TrueNat/CBNAAT, Rapid Angen Test or any other test as approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
2. In the case of a traveller arriving from Kerala, entry will be allowed with a negative RT-PCR report with the following additional conditions:
a. The students/employees landing in Goa from the state of Kerala shall be subjected to an Institutional Quarantine of 5 days. The arrangement will be done by the Administrators/Principals of the educational institutions.
b. For the employees, the quarantine arrangement shall be done by respective offices/companies/firms. At the end of 5 days, they shall undergo the RT-PCR test.
c. Those other than students and employees arriving from Kerala should produce the RT-PCR negative test report and be in-home quarantine for five days.
Exemptions from quarantine:
1. Healthcare professionals, their spouses and constitutional functionaries.
2. Children below two years.
3. People arriving for dire emergency situations, such as medical treatment, death in family etc.
Also Read: Cancellations due to Omicron variant scare is not a trend: Thomas Cook India
All passengers travelling to Maharashtra within India are required to carry either of the two documents.
1) A negative RT-PCR test report done within 72 hours prior to departure.
2) A final vaccination certificate (both COVID-19 doses taken).
Meanwhile, passengers from high-risk countries - Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will be required to take an RT-PCR test immediately upon arrival at the respective international airport in Maharashtra. The travellers will also have to undergo a mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine with a second RT-PCR test to be carried out on the seventh day, according to the state government's order.
"High-risk air passengers may be deplaned on priority and separate counters will be arranged by respective airport management authorities at all international airports of the State of Maharashtra for their screening and verification," read the order. It further stated that if the passenger tests positive for COVI-19 in any of the tests, then he/she will be shifted to a hospital.
If the COVID test on the seventh day comes negative, then the traveller will have to undergo a further seven days of home quarantine.
1. All domestic passengers will have to undergo thermal screening upon arrival in the state.
2. The travellers are required to carry the vaccination certificate (both doses) and an RT-PCR negative report (taken 72 hours prior to the start of journey).
3. Passengers will have to register on the COVID-19 Jagratha portal.
4. Travellers are required to carry a valid e-pass for Kerala.
5. In case an individual tests negative for COVID-19, there is no home quarantine, however, if tested positive, he/she will be required to follow the state guidelines of isolation and testing.
1. People arriving in the state will have to undergo mandatory tests. If positive or symptomatic, they will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
2. All districts in the state have been directed that if any traveller, coming from outside, manifests symptoms of COVID-19, then he/she should be tested and later put under 14-day quarantine if tested positive.
3. All COVID samples will be sent to Government Medical College in Dehradun for genome sequencing.
4. Officials will conduct random testing on the state's borders.
5. District authorities will test all frontline and healthcare workers in line with the ICMR guidelines.
Jammu and Kashmir
The Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) government has said that all international or domestic travellers, with past two weeks history of international travel, entering Kashmir will have to undergo mandatory administrative quarantine and undergo RT-PCR tests.
1. The J&K government has made rigorous screening and COVID-19 RT-PCT mandatory for all international passengers at the Srinagar International Airport.
2. All incoming travellers from "at-risk" countries will have to undergo home quarantine for seven days even if they test negative.
3. The travellers will be tested again on day eight, and if tested negative, they will be advised to self-monitor for at least two weeks.
4. If found positive, the traveller will be required to undergo institutional quarantine and be treated according to standard protocol.
1. Travellers visiting the island archipelago are required to carry with them a negative RT-PCR test report obtained within 48 hours of the travel and submit the same at the entry and exit points.
2. Visitors to Lakshadweep need to follow COVID appropriate behaviour and undergo three days mandatory quarantine. This is not applicable for those who have taken both doses of COVID-19 vaccines 14 days prior to their travel.
3. No COVID test result is required for inter-island travels for those vaccinated with both doses 14 prior to their trip.
However, those who are partially or non-vaccinated not only have to carry an RT-PCR negative test report, but they also have to undergo a three-day mandatory quarantine.
Also Read: 'Could be entering the worst part of COVID-19 pandemic', warns Bill Gates
COVID travel restrictions and guidelines for Indians travelling abroad:
The UK, which constitutes over half of the omicron variant cases detected globally, is yet to exclude the possibility of a 'Christmas lockdown'. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that he will not announce any further COVID-19 restrictions in the UK before Christmas but cautioned that the situation remains "finely balanced" ahead of the new year.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said on Monday that 12 people infected with Omicron have died in Britain. He added that the government is assessing the situation and is relying heavily on the real data coming through. Raab further stated that the government will "take a little bit more time to assess this critical issue of the severity of Omicron."
The country is tightening COVID-19 curbs in an attempt to stem the spread of the Omicron variant, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said last week.
"There is no doubt - the new variant changes the rules," he was quoted as saying. Norway is already in a state of partial lockdown with the closure of gyms and swimming schools with stricter rules in schools. The country has also banned serving alcohol in bars and restaurants.
As many as 45 US states have registered confirmed cases of the Omicron variant which has led to mask mandates and a slew of curbs in different states.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is considering easing travel restrictions to Southern African countries as US infection rates of Omicron rise, top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday.
The United States on November 29 barred nearly all foreign nationals if they had been in one of eight southern African countries including South Africa within the last 14 days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week started distributing free COVID-19 home test kits to international travellers at several airports. The CDC encourages - but does not mandate - international air travellers to get a new COVID-19 test upon arriving in the United States.
New rules took effect on December 6 requiring nearly all people flying to the United States to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The UAE, which is also witnessing a rise in COVID cases, has not imposed any travel restrictions to prevent tourists from travelling to popular destinations such as Dubai. Indians travelling to Dubai or any city in the UAE are required to carry a printed or digital negative COVID-19 RT-PCR negative report taken no more than 48 hours before departure.
The travellers must also present a negative RT-PCR test conducted at the departure airport within six hours before departure. Upon arrival in UAE, the passengers are required to take another COVID-19 PCR test at the airport.
Flying from the UAE to India: Steps to follow
1. Mandatory PCR test within 72 hours of flight's departure time. The passengers need to submit the negative test result while filling out the Air Suvidha form.
2. The travellers are required to submit the self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel, comprising last 14 days travel details.
3. The airport authorities may conduct a random on arrival PCR test. If the traveller tests positive, the sample will be sent for genome testing and treatment will be followed according to the protocol. If the test result is negative, the passenger will be asked to self-monitor his/her health for 14 days.
With the country reporting its first "local" Omicron case, Thailand has decided to reinstate mandatory quarantine for foreign visitors.
Thailand has decided to reimpose a mandatory quarantine for foreign visitors and suspend a "test-and-go" scheme for fully vaccinated arrivals. Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana also announced the suspension of "sandbox" programmes that allow visitors to remain and move around specific locations, except for the resort island of Phuket, where he said it will stay in effect. He added that the decision would be reviewed on January 4.
Wangboonkongchana further stated that about 200,000 people who have registered for the "test-and-go" scheme, known as Thailand Pass, but have not yet entered Thailand will be allowed to come. They will be subject to a coronavirus test on arrival and a second test seven days later at the expense of the government. He did not provide further details.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand will not accept any new applications for the "test-and-go" programme.
The decision came after Thailand recorded its first case of domestic transmission of the omicron variant last week when a returning resident tested negative on arrival but later tested positive and infected members of his family. The few other positive cases were all caught after testing on arrival and quarantined.
Singapore has suspended its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), which permitted the quarantine-free entry of international visitors into the country, with immediate effect. The programme has been put on hold till January 20, 2022. Meanwhile, visitors from 24 countries on the VTL list, including India, are still able to book flight tickets for Singapore from January 21 onwards, if available.
However, the government has said that it would reduce the VTL quota and ticket sales after the said date. The total count of VTL tickets for flights would be capped at 50% of the previously allocated quota.
Japan has banned all foreign visitors from entering the country until December 31 "as an emergency precautionary measure" against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The country had only begun easing border controls on November 8, when fully vaccinated non-resident foreigners were permitted to enter for approved purposes such as education and business.
Malaysia, which is a popular tourist destination, has mandated a negative PCR test for international arrivals, taken within three days of travel. The passengers are also required to undergo COVID-19 screening at the airport upon arrival.
However, travellers from India must present a PCR test taken within two days of departure and are required to wear a digital tracker provided by a medical officer upon arrival.
The government has mandated that all vaccinated arrivals must quarantine for seven days, whereas those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated must quarantine for 10 days. Furthermore, all international visitors to Malaysia must obtain approval through the MyTravelPass / MyEntry portal prior to their journey.
The Swiss government has stepped up its testing requirement. Anyone travelling to the country must register electronically.
International travellers arriving in Switzerland, irrespective of their vaccination or recovery status, must furnish a negative PCR test report taken within 72 hours of entry. A second test four to seven days post arrival is also compulsory.
The government has also introduced a rule permitting only those with vaccine passports or proof of recovery to enter restaurants and indoor events.
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