Cochin International Airport in Kerala passengers
Passengers leave Cochin International Airport in Kerala after arriving on an Air India Express special flight from Dubai on Friday. Image Credit: ANI

The south Indian state of Kerala will impose a mandatory seven-day quarantine only on travellers arriving from countries that are at risk of exposure to the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, media reports in the state said.

Passengers coming from Botswana, South Africa, Hong Kong, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore and Israel will have to undergo strict monitoring at Kerala’s airports. Passengers who have travelled to these countries will also face a seven-day quarantine in the state, reports added.

After an RT-PCR test on arrival, these passengers will have to undergo another RT-PCR test on the eighth-day, at the end of the quarantine period. If tested positive for the coronavirus, the samples will be sent for further tests to ascertain the variant.

On Saturday, Kerala Health Minister Veena George told media persons that the federal government is in touch with the states and utmost caution has been advised. The state will follow the directives coming from the central government, she added.

“So far, things are under control. But in the wake of the reports of a new variant, the accepted COVID protocols — use of sanitisers and masks and social distancing — have to be strictly observed. With regard to quarantine for those arriving from abroad, the Centre’s guidelines are expected and we will also be cautious on that aspect,” said George.

Omicron comes at a time when Kerala for the past few months has been registering 50 per cent of the daily new cases in the country, and has a similar record of having a high percentage of the total number of active cases.

RT-PCR test before and after arrival

According to the federal government guidelines, passengers from abroad should undergo an RT-PCR test within 72 hours after arrival and upload it in the Air Suvidha portal. Test samples will be collected for an RT-PCR test after the quarantine as well.

The suspected samples of the passengers coming from these countries would be sent for genetic testing for virus variants.

As concerns grow over the new COVID variant, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called for a proactive approach and a review of plans for easing international travel curbs and urged people to be more cautious while several states moved quickly to take precautionary measures and remain vigilant.

Two Indians returning from South Africa to Bengaluru tested positive for COVID-19 and their samples have been sent for further tests to determine the variant, a Karnataka official said.

Modi, who was briefed by officials about Omicron at a meeting to review the public health preparedness and COVID-19 vaccination, also highlighted the need for monitoring international arrivals, their testing as per guidelines, with a specific focus on countries identified “at risk”.