With the spread of the Omicron variant not letting up, Tamil Nadu has made home isolation and an eighth-day exit test mandatory for international passengers arriving in the state. These curbs apply to travellers from all countries, not just at-risk countries. By Eshita Srinivas
After several reported cases of COVID-19 infection due to the Omicron variant, Tamil Nadu has stepped up testing and monitoring of international air travellers at Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, and Madurai international airports. All passengers will now need to remain under home isolation for seven days and undergo a test on the eighth day. Only if the test is negative will the passenger be allowed to exit quarantine. In the meantime, their health will be monitored by the police, revenue, health, and local government bodies, health minister Ma Subramanian clarified in a report by the Times of India.
All international passengers, irrespective of the country of origin, need to stay in home isolation
> All International passengers arriving to Tamil Nadu to follow home quarantine for 07 days.
> Random post arrival testing of 10% passengers from ‘countries not at-risk’ pic.twitter.com/iqbdggnGxM
— Chennai (MAA) Airport (@aaichnairport) December 26, 2021
This fresh set of mandates has come in after the state recorded several cases of infection amongst passengers from destinations that didn’t fall under the list of countries considered to be at high risk of spreading the virus. In a report by India Today, Subramanian observed that of the 57 patients who’d tested positive with the “s” gene drop (infection caused due to the Omicron variant), only two were from “at-risk” countries.
The need of the hour, according to him, was to bring in curbs to monitor all international passengers, in addition to those already in place. Pre-established norms set by the Centre at the moment apply to travellers from Botswana, Brazil, South Africa, China, Israel, Mauritius, New Zealand, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Hong Kong, as well as all countries in Europe, including the UK. Passengers from these destinations will continue to be tested on arrival and asked to stay under home isolation for eight days. Post this, they will undergo an “exit test” and will be allowed to leave their homes if they test negative.
With the new change in protocol, the Tamil Nadu government has now extended this to passengers from all countries. Ma Subramanian said, “we will continue with the mandatory requirements for passengers from ‘at-risk’ countries that are mentioned above, including testing on arrival and home isolation for eight days if found negative and then exit test. But the same will now be implemented to passengers who reach the state from ‘not-at-risk’ countries as there are several reports of Omicron variant being detected from passengers who arrive from ‘not-at-risk’ countries also.” according to a report by the Business Standard.
Random testing for international passengers from not-at-risk countries has been stepped up to 10 percent
Random tests done on passengers arriving from ‘non-risk’ countries at all four international airports in Tamil Nadu would be ramped up from two per cent to 10 per cent from tomorrow: State govt. #Omicron
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) December 25, 2021
Until Saturday, December 25, only 2 percent of international passengers were being tested at random and none of them had to wait for results, being asked only to monitor their health for two weeks without any quarantine. Hospital isolation was called for only when a passenger tested positive. However, now the Tamil Nadu government will test up to 10 percent of passengers from “not-at-risk” countries at random while insisting they remain under home isolation until the exit test is conducted on the eighth day of arrival.
This comes in after the state government wrote a letter to the Union government, seeking permission for mandatory testing of all international passengers. As per a report by the Financial Express, the Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Dr T S Selvavinayagam had said, “Only two per cent of passengers from non-risk countries are being randomly tested with RT-PCR and permitted to leave even before the results are declared, thereby increasing chances of missing passengers from non-risk countries infected with Omicron variant of being detected and leading to rapid transmission in the community.”
The state’s Chief Minister also requested people to avoid crowding and follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour on Friday. In a report by The News Minute, he stressed the importance of vaccination, stating, “People who are yet to be vaccinated should get their dose in camps being held by local bodies and the health department. All shops, commercial complexes and cinemas should compulsorily follow guidelines to prevent the virus spread and adhere to the Standard Operating Procedure.”