On OCT 20, the government of India issued the revised guidelines for international arrivals from countries at COVID-19 risks and countries with a falling COVID graph. India’s revised guidelines for inbound international passengers took effect on October 25, 2021.
The pre-arrival guidelines – taking an RT-PCR test within 72 hours prior to traveling to India, filling out a self-declaration form and uploading the negative RT-PCR report on Air Suvidha, and giving a declaration ascertaining authenticity of the COVID-19 report – will continue to be in effect and must be followed by every traveler flying into India, irrespective of age, vaccination status, and country of residence or travel origin. There is exemption for children under 5 years of age. With effect from November 12, the government of India exempts children below 5 from taking an RT-PCR test prior to their scheduled travel from the country of residence or travel origin. If a child below 5 is found symptomatic during thermal screening on arrival, the child will be tested for COVID-19.
India’s list of countries at risk
Let’s decode the revised guidelines for people traveling to India on or after OCT 25, with the list of countries at risk. European countries including the UK, China, Brazil, South Africa, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Botswana and Bangladesh are on Indian government’s list of countries at COVID-19 risk.
Travelers flying into India from countries not at risk
We see that the United States, Canada, Qatar, the UAE, Turkey, Mexico, Singapore, Australia and Japan are currently not on India’s list of countries at risk. Travelers from countries excluding the countries at risk will have smooth arrival and no home-quarantine in India. If they are asymptomatic, they will be allowed to exit the entry airport or continue onward travel to the final destination without a post-arrival COVID-19 test. They will be advised self-monitoring of heath for two weeks from the day of arrival.
Currently, India-bound travelers transiting in Europe or the Middle East have to take a self-paid RT-PCR test on arrival. India’s revised guidelines for international arrivals do not explicitly state whether those arriving through the Middle East or Europe will be needed to give their swab sample for a paid test from October 25 onwards. Many people from Canada and the US travel to India on one-stop flights via Doha, Dubai, or Abu Dhabi. Hope the post-arrival testing protocol will be removed for them once the revised guidelines come into effect.
“The state governments have been allowed to relax or tighten the guidelines further for international arrivals till date. Whether the revised guidelines will uniformly be implemented across India on or after October 25, is a matter of concern. Currently, international travelers whose final destination is within the state of Maharashtra are subject to 14-day home quarantine. But Karnataka and a few other states have done away with any sort of quarantine for asymptomatic international arrivals,” said the chief travel advisor of Indian Eagle, a leading travel-booking partner of Indians abroad.
Travelers flying into India from the category ‘A’ countries
The category A is the list of countries which have signed an agreement with India on mutual acceptance of vaccination certificates from travelers inoculated with nationally or WHO-recognized vaccines. The A list of countries are also the countries that allow quarantine-free arrival to Indians fully vaccinated with nationally recognized or WHO-listed vaccines. The category ‘A’ countries are the UK, France, Germany, Belarus, Belgium, Hungary, Serbia, Lebanon, Ukraine, Armenia and Nepal.
With effect from October 25, India-bound travelers from these countries will be divided into two groups: fully vaccinated and partially/not vaccinated. Fully vaccinated travelers from the category ‘A’ countries will no longer undergo a post-arrival test and home quarantine in India. They shall self-monitor their health for 14 days.
Starting on October 25, partially/unvaccinated travelers from the category ‘A’ countries will be subjected to a self-paid RT-PCR test on arrival, 7-day home quarantine, and re-testing on day 8. If they test negative on the 8th day following 7 days of home quarantine, they will be advised self-monitoring of health for next seven days.
These additional post-arrival measures will equally apply to travelers, vaccinated or unvaccinated, from the countries at risk, according to India’s revised guidelines for international arrivals.
Indian government’s list of countries at risk and list of category A countries are dynamic. The lists will be revised from time to time. If international travelers develop COVID symptoms during home-quarantine or while self-monitoring health in India, they are advised to contact the nearest health center or the helpline 1075.