Karnataka's airports to test all international travelers on arrival for Covid-19

Asia's Tech News Daily

Basavaraj Bommai, karanataka, Covid 19, omicron, k sudhakar

Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai has mandated that all international passengers arriving at Bengaluru and other airports in the state be tested for Covid-19 in view of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant across many countries.

This raises the bar at the port of entry for international passengers as the health ministry’s guidelines require only passengers from at-risk countries to undergo testing on arrival. Others can go home but stay in quarantine and re-test on the eighth day. As for those arriving from other countries, they have to self-monitor for two weeks. The guideline, which takes effect from December 1, however, requires authorities to subject 5% of all international passengers to random testing on arrival. All passengers, however, must upload a negative RT-PCR report before boarding the flight.

After the Covid-19 technical advisory committee met in Bengaluru to discuss the Omicron prevention strategies, Health & Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar told ET that passengers who test positive will be shifted to hospital and treated separately.

Those who are asymptomatic and test negative, will be allowed to stay under home quarantine for a week and re-test on the seventh day. Those who are symptomatic but negative will take another test on the fifth day. The passengers will pay at the airport for their RT-PCR tests, the minister added.

About 2500 passengers arrive in Bengaluru every day and Karnataka’s new regulation for international arrivals is expected to impact the technology sector as business travel between Bengaluru and the US and Europe has picked up. It is expected to also hurt those returning home on short vacations and those on short-term business visits.

The government, Sudhakar said, had no option but to go for the compulsory testing regulation to prevent the virus variant from entering the state. Many countries have followed a more stringent course, he added.

Earlier, the RT-PCR testing was mandatory for travellers from countries where the Omicron strain had been spotted, but the chief minister has asked the health department to subject every international passenger to RT-PCR test on arrival.

“We are doing this as this strain is much more contagious than all others. We are taking these steps as we don’t want to go back to the days of lockdowns or curb economic activities. People have suffered in the past and many have lost jobs too. We don’t want to press the panic button,” the health minister said, while striking an optimistic note from what he had heard that those infected by the strain showed mild to moderate symptoms. Since it is early days, we need to protect ourselves with two doses of vaccination, he added.

CM TO WRITE TO CENTRE:

The chief minister will write a letter to the Centre requesting it to consider a ban on flights originating from countries where the Omicron strain has been spotted. “The subject falls in the Centre’s domain. The state government will only write a letter,” the health minister said.

ICMR REPORT:

The results of the genomic sequencing on the sample of the 63-year-old returnee from South Africa will be known in two or three days, Sudhakar said. An ICMR lab is doing the sequencing and the Centre itself will disclose the findings, he added.

One of the two infected persons, who arrived in Bengaluru from South Africa recently, has been found with a Covid-19 virus different from the Delta variant, raising concerns among the health authorities.

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