International travellers unhappy with RT-PCR tests on arrival in India

The Centre recently directed that 2% of all international passengers coming from affected countries need to undergo RT-PCR tests.

Swapnil MishraUpdated: Saturday, January 07, 2023, 10:00 PM IST
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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport | File Photo

Several inbound international travellers were irked over taking RT-PCR tests despite being fully vaccinated besides the additional cover of booster dose.

Treading on a cautious note, the Centre recently directed that 2% of all international passengers coming from affected countries need to undergo RT-PCR tests. China, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Japan were top on the list.

One of the passengers, who did not wish to be named, returned from the UK two weeks ago and had to undergo RT-PCR which made him anxious.

“We have already gone through many things during the pandemic. Now, the government has again started the same thing. Instead of testing fully-vaccinated people who have also taken boosters, the government should keep tabs on travellers who have not taken boosters. They should be tested compulsorily,” he said.

Senior health official from the central government said there is a reason due to which restrictions have come in place. “We have learnt that viruses can mutate and have the ability to escape the immune system due to infection and re-infection. Vaccination can only act like a barrier but can't give complete protection. We are not doubting the vaccine's efficacy but our main concern is there should not be any pandemic wave. Hence, few restrictions have to be imposed,” he said.

Queries Received on RT-PCR Rule

One of the tour managers said they have received many queries related to undergoing RT-PCR at the airport despite being fully-vaccinated. “We have informed all our international passengers that RT-PCR tests are mandatory at the airport. Still, there are queries and we keep explaining that it's a government order which has to be followed,” he said.

Health experts believe that mandating RT-PCR for all will raise questions about the vaccine's efficacy and hesitation towards inoculation will increase.

Organised Medicine Academic Guild Secretary-General Dr Ishwar Gilada said, “India is and will remain unaffected by BF.7 or BQ.1 strains dominant in China and the US, respectively. Both of them are sub-lineages of Omicron sub-variant BA.5. India's BA.2 and its recombinant sub-lineage XBB have not allowed entry to BA.5 and its sub-lineages to date.

'Travel restrictions are futile'

“Hence, travel restrictions are futile and ground realities also proved that there is no let-up in Covid cases in the last two weeks. Current Covid test positivity rate (TPR) remains abysmally low at 0.1%, according to the Health Ministry. The restrictions will create hesitancy towards vaccines and people will resist getting inoculated. Time to rejoice in freedom from Covid,” he said.

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