Update (December 9) As per the latest guidelines by the DGCA, the ban on international passenger flights has been extended till January 31, 2022. The ban was earlier scheduled to be lifted on December 15 this year. The decision has come through keeping in mind the looming threat due to the Omicron variant.
Update (December 1) The Indian government has advised all passengers arriving from 'at risk' countries to be prepared to wait at the airports till their results have been obtained. The list of countries categorised 'at-risk' so far includes the United Kingdom, all 44 countries in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel.
With the World Health Organisation (WHO) urging nations to start taking preventive measure against the spread of the variant B.1.1.529 (now referred to as the Omicron) as they see it as a variant of concern (VOC), the world has been scrambling to get its act together.
According to a statement from the WHO, the B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to them from South Africa on November 24, 2021. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9, 2021. According to latest media reports, new cases are now being reported from various parts of the world too.
Several countries, even airlines and other travel-related businesses, have already started taking preventive measures, according to media reports. Many airlines companies have decided to put a curb on passenger flights from their hubs in southern Africa.
Flight bans, ban on entry of foreigners, mandatory quarantine, etc. are now being implemented by many. Here's the latest as of November 30, 2021
Banned flights from southern African countries
Many countries such as Australia, Egypt, Canada, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Oman, Maldives, and Philippines have banned flights to and from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini. Australia has also banned flights to and from Seychelles.
Ban on non-citizens
Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Canada, Indonesia, Italy, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, etc. have banned entry of foreigners who have been to South Africa and other nations in southern Africa in the past 14 days.
Some countries such as Argentina have said it will impose mandatory quarantine besides showing proof of being fully vaccinated, negative RT-PCR, insurance coverage which includes COVID-19, etc.
According to the revised guideline (dated November 28) for international arrivals, all travellers (irrespective of COVID-19 vaccination status) coming to India from countries identified as &lsquocountries at-risk&rsquo have to mandatorily undergo post-arrival COVID-19 testing at airport on arrival in addition to pre-departure COVID-19 testing undertaken 72 hours before the departure.
Japan has shut its borders for all non-citizens, according to reports.
The media quoted United Kingdom&rsquos Health Secretary as saying that six countries &ndash South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia &ndash have been put on the &lsquored list&rsquo. While citizens of other countries who have been to the red list nations will not be allowed to enter, UK and Irish citizens or permanent residents returning from these countries will have to stay in a 10-day long hotel quarantine. Other preventive rules are also being implemented.
President Biden of the United States was also quoted by the media as saying they will be cautious following the WHO announcement and implement restrictions on non-citizens who have been to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
India, which has (so far) retained its decision to restart scheduled international operations from December 1 this year, has also issued a revised guideline for all international passengers. From December 1, the aviation ministry requires all international travellers to submit travel history for 14 days, a negative RT-PCR report on the Air Suvidha portal as well as an authenticity declaration for the COVID-19 test report. You can check the details here.