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NEW DELHI : India on Monday made it mandatory for all travellers coming to India from countries identified as ‘at-risk countries’ to undergo post-arrival covid-19 testing at the airports to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus strain Omicron.

From 1 December, covid-19 testing will be done irrespective of the covid-19 vaccination status, according to the new rule.

The testing on arrival will be in addition to covid-19 testing undertaken 72 hours before departure, in continuation of the risk-based approach for management of covid-19 pandemic, under the revised guidelines for international arrivals issued on Sunday by the Union health ministry.

All arrivals from Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel will be tested at the airport using the RT-PCR method, the health ministry said.

Passengers found positive in these tests will be isolated and treated according to the clinical management protocol.

Their samples will also be taken for genome sequencing. Passengers found negative can leave the airport but have to undergo home isolation for seven days, followed by testing on the eighth day of arrival in India, followed by seven days of self-monitoring, according to the latest guidelines.

“Further, in view of the reports of an increasing number of countries reporting the Omicron variant, the present guidelines also mandate that 5% of the travellers coming from countries which are not in the ‘at risk category’ will also be tested on a random basis at the airports for covid-19," the health ministry said.

Samples of all individuals testing positive for covid-19, either at airports under home isolation or during random sampling, will also be sent for whole genomic sequencing at identified INSACOG network laboratories to determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Omicron.

“The emerging evidence on the issue is being monitored by the Union ministry of health. States have also been advised to conduct rigorous surveillance of international passengers and enhanced testing, monitor the hotspots of covid-19, ensure augmentation of health infrastructure and take samples for whole genome sequencing," the ministry said.

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