No mandatory RT-PCR test for domestic flyers in Maha
Mumbai A day after the Maharashtra government issued orders for stricter air travel curbs to contain the spread of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, state health minister Rajesh Tope said that it has deferred the point mandating negative RT-PCR test 48 hours prior to entering Maharashtra for domestic travellers.
This move came after the union health ministry asked Maharashtra to “align” its orders with the union government’s guidelines. The state government, however, is not going to scale down its orders, which includes seven-day institutional quarantine and compulsory RT-PCR for all international passengers.
A letter dated December 1 from Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan to the additional chief secretary (health) Dr Pradeep Vyas said that the state’s order was in “divergence” with the guidelines issued by the union health ministry.
“At present, we have deferred the clause which mandated negative RT-PCR tests for domestic passengers. The necessary order will be issued in the immediate future. I don’t think there is any logic in keeping this clause...I think we have to fall in line with the Government of India’s guidelines,” Tope told HT.
Maharashtra chief secretary Debashish Chakrabarty, who signed the order on Tuesday, said that the Centre’s letter was an “advisory” and that the Centre’s guidelines can’t restrict the state from including additional conditions. Chakrabarty said that the Centre’s advisory would be “considered as would be required in the context of a specific situation in the state.”
“We have received a letter from the union health secretary which is an advisory that says we should modify our orders in accordance with directions of the Government of India. It is an advisory but that does not prevent the state government to include certain conditions which may be necessary for the containment of the new variant. For now, we will continue with the guidelines which were issued yesterday,” Chakrabarty told HT.
Senior bureaucrats said that Dr Vyas is expected to respond to the letter stating that the orders issued by the State were in accordance with the Centre’s guidelines.
Meanwhile, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in a circular on Wednesday said the Maharashtra government’s order making institutional quarantine of one week compulsory for all international passengers from risk countries landing in Mumbai, will be effective from 11.59 pm of December 2, 2021 (Thursday night). However, all international fliers will still have to undertake mandatory and self-paid RT-PCR tests at the airport upon arrival, effectively immediately, as per a separate order issued by the Government of India on November 30.
BMC has decided to give a window of two days for all international fliers before implementing the state guidelines. In its circular on Wednesday, BMC said that since many fliers will have already finalised their plans of travel, maybe on the move, or might even be airborne and unaware of these guidelines, a window of two days shall be given to all passengers arriving in Mumbai from at-risk countries. This will avoid major inconveniences to passengers and also give them time to recast their travel plans.