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Passengers outside the arrivals hall at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Passengers whose journey to India originates from the UAE will not have to quarantine themselves if they test negative for COVID-19 on arrival from February 23, unless specified otherwise by the state government concerned, senior Indian officials have confirmed to Gulf News.

All international passengers whose flights originate from the Middle East must undergo self-paid molecular tests at the airport of their arrival from 12am onwards on February 23. This is according to the new COVID-19 travel protocol issued by India. This new protocol is applicable to all the passengers, including children of all ages, in addition to the negative RT-PCR test report issued within 72 hours of their departure and posted on the Air Suvidha portal. They are also required to carry the report of the pre-departure test.

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On Monday, officials in the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation confirmed to Gulf News that the molecular confirmatory test is RT-PCR test and passengers whose journey originates in the Middle East will not have to be quarantined if they test negative on arrival.

“As per our SOP [standard operating procedure], all travellers from Europe and Middle East — other than those from Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom — can exit the airport after giving the sample for the test on arrival,” said a senior official who did not wish to be named. The passengers will be informed about their report once it is ready. It will take a minimum of ten hours to get the test result, according to the Air Suvidha portal.

“If the report is positive, the passengers will undergo treatment as per standard health protocol. If the report is negative, they will be asked to self-monitor their health for 14 days. There is no mandatory institutional or home quarantine,” the official added.

However, the official added that the passengers must abide by the quarantine rules, if any, as specified by the state governments. For example, the Kerala state government has not announced any change in its quarantine rule, according to which, all international passengers have to be home-quarantined for seven days. On the eighth day, they need to test negative in order to end home quarantine.

How much does an on-arrival test cost?

Another official said that international passengers will have to pay for the RT-PCR test on arrival as per the cost fixed by the respective state governments. In New Delhi, a passenger can get the test done at the airport for Rs3,400. The fees include test and lounge charges, the Air Suvidha portal said. The testing facility is located at Level 1, Airport Connect Building of Terminal 3 at Indira Gandhi International Airport. The sample collection stations are positioned near the arrival pier. “The fee for the test depends on what the state government has fixed. It is only Rs1,700 at Kerala airports,” said the official.

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He added that some airports have outsourced the tests to private health-care providers because the SOP had to be implemented within a short span of time. Kiosks were being set up to help reduce the rush and facilitate social distancing of passengers queuing up for the test, he added.

The Indian Ministries of Health and Civil Aviation had announced the new COVID-19 travel protocol for international passengers on February 17.