New Delhi: With Omicron creating havoc worldwide, the Indian government has also decided to tighten its rules when it comes to international passengers. Those coming from the 14 'at-risk' countries, airport screening has been made mandatory and they might have to wait as long as six hours at the Delhi airport.
"Travellers from specified countries at risk will follow the protocol as detailed below: Submission of sample for post-arrival COVID-19 test at the point of arrival (self paid). Such travellers will be required to wait for their test results at the arrival airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight. If tested negative, they will follow home quarantine for 7 days. Re-test on the 8th day of arrival in India and if negative, further self-monitor of their health for the next seven days," the guidelines stated.
The countries (at risk updated as on November 26, 2021) from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India include European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.
The revised guidelines regarding this will be effective from December 1. While the company conducting RT-PCR can reportedly carry out 400-500 tests in an hour, but efforts are being made to increase the testing capacity. But passengers are worried because if six hours need to be spent at the airport, those who have date-bound plans or a connecting flight to catch can be in soup.
For instance, from most places in Europe and UK, direct flights to Delhi takes around 8-8.5 hours. Now add the six hours waiting to it, it becomes 14 hours. And then if you consider the entire immigration process and luggage collection, passengers may end up spending a good 17 hours at the airport. That's like a flight to US, which is roughly double the distance (with respect to India-Europe). If there is a connecting flight from the Middle East, then it may take 2.5 hours more. And in that case, the travel time can go up to to 19.5 hours.
While details with further be revealed as days go by, many passengers are likely to spend long hours at the Delhi airport before they can exit. Other international airports like those in Bengaluru are also trying to figure out how to minimise issues for international passengers, while keeping safety as priority.