India has mandated a COVID-19 negative test report for travellers arriving from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, the federal health minister said.
Passengers from those countries would be put under quarantine if they showed symptoms of COVID-19 or tested positive, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted on Saturday, as he posted photographs of tests being conducted at the international airport in the capital, New Delhi.
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India – which has reported the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, at 44 million, behind the United States to date – on Saturday also started randomly testing 2 percent of international passengers arriving at its airports for COVID-19.
Mandaviya cited an increase in cases in neighbouring China for the new rules, he told parliament on Thursday.
A few cases of BF.7 – the Omicron subvariant that is driving the current surge in China – have been found in India so far, according to local media reports.
The minister urged state governments to increase surveillance for any new coronavirus variants and send samples of all positive cases to genome sequencing laboratories.
India relaxed its mask-wearing rules earlier this year after the caseload began dropping. According to health ministry data, India currently has about 3,400 active coronavirus cases.
Cases have surged in China since it relaxed its harsh zero-COVID policy this month following rare public protests. Under the controversial policy, the authorities were placing entire towns and cities under lockdown if they reported a few cases.
Mandaviya said the Indian government had no plans yet to halt flights from countries where new cases have been reported.
On Thursday, India’s top doctors’ body, the Indian Medical Association, also appealed to people to wear masks in public places and get vaccine boosters. It additionally urged people to avoid public gatherings such as weddings, political and social meetings, and international travel.
India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion, has administered more than 2.2 billion vaccine doses, but only 27 percent of the population has received the booster third dose.