Patna: Migrants arriving from Maharashtra wait in a queue for Covid-19 tests at Patna railway station, amid the rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, Sunday, April 18, 2021.
Patna: Migrants arriving from Maharashtra wait in a queue for Covid-19 tests at Patna railway station, amid the rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, Sunday, April 18, 2021.
(PTI Photo)

Maharashtra government on Sunday has declared Kerala, Goa, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi and NCR region and Uttarakahd as places of "sensitive origin" in a serious bid to curb the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in the state.

Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte in a 'Break The Chain' order said it will remain in place till it is retracted or till COVID-19 stays notified as a disaster. The order came on a day when the state reported a record 68,631 new COVID-19 cases and 503 deaths.

In a related development, the government has issued SOP for travel to Maharashtra through long distance trains. The COVID appropriate behaviour will form an essential part of all train travel from/into/within the state except for local trains. It will be a joint responsibility of the Railway authorities and the local Disaster Management Authority to ensure the same. The passengers travelling from the places of "sensitive origin" will have to travel with confirmed ticket only and they will need an RT-PCR negative test within 48 hours of travel.

Further, all passengers will be compulsorily screened and only asymptomatic passengers shall be allowed to travel. A person with a quarantine stamp found outside his home except for medical emergency within the period of 15 days of stamping shall be fined Rs 1,000 and shall be moved to institutional quarantine.

Check out the guidelines for long-distance trains:

A. SOP for travel to Maharashtra through Railways:

COVID appropriate behaviour will form an essential part of all train travel from/into/within the state (except for local trains). It will be the joint responsibility of the Railway authorities and the local Disaster Management Authority to ensure the same. This will include without exception following:

a. All passengers to compulsorily wear masks in a proper fashion throughout the journey and at the railway stations.

b. All passengers to maintain proper social distancing while boarding/ alighting from the trains or when getting tested/ checked at the stations when needed.

c. Thermal scanners to be made available at entry/exit points at all stations.

d. Passengers to be advised to arrive at the station well before time of train departure as to ensure no crowding for thermal scanning at the entry points.

e. E-ticketing/ mobile ticketing should be promoted as it becomes easier to do the tracing of close contacts through mobile numbers. Fine system should also ideally be mobile-based or allow e-collection.

B. Sensitive Origins:

Due to reasons that may lead to higher potentiality of spread of COVID-19 in Maharashtra, some origins may be declared as sensitive origins by the MSDMA. For the trains that may be bringing in passengers from these origin, the following protocol is to be followed in addition to protocol mentioned in above:

1. Railways shall share data of the trains that are scheduled to be running between these origins and stations of Maharashtra with the local Disaster Management Authority (DMA).

2. As a principle no unreserved ticket for Maharashtra should be issued on trains from sensitive origins. Also, passengers without confirmed ticket should not be allowed to board for Maharashtra.

3. All passengers wishing to travel to Maharashtra will need RT-PCT negative test within 48 hours of travel.

4. All passengers shall be compulsorily screened and only asymptomatic passengers shall be allowed to board the trains for Maharashtra. Social distancing should be ensured during boarding/ de-boarding and travel.

5. Railways shall share the data with the local DMA of the passengers that are travelling on the said trains and who are scheduled to disembark at various stations of Maharashtra on each day at the earliest, at least 4 hours prior to departure from the origin.

6. Though data should contain information about all the passengers that may disembark at any station of Maharashtra, it is, however, appreciated that in some cases, this data may not be completely available and thus local authorities should plan for 10% more than the expected disembarkment.

7. Railway authorities and local DMA should maintain close coordination to exchange information about delays or schedule changes of trains and about number of passengers disembarking.

8. Railway authorities should announce on each station en-route, the systems that have been put in place so that each passenger gets informed about the rules to follow. Railway authorities may also plan printing pamphlets in Hindi/ Marathi (bi-lingual) to be distributed to all the passengers informing them of COVID appropriate behaviour expected and dangers to themselves and their family members if they fail to do so. These should also carry information on fines, protocols at the destination, etc.

9. To the extent possible, Railway authorities should ensure that trains from these origins come to outer platforms where it may be easier to do thermal and other checking without affecting passengers from other origins and without mixing the two. Also, wherever possible, all passengers alighting from the said trains to be guided towards a single exit.

10. After disembarkment following must be followed:

a. All the passengers will be queued up with social distancing for screening by the DMA/ health authorities with assistance from the Railway authorities. Given that some of the locations may have constricted space, local DMA and railway authorities should plan the best way possible.

b. Each traveller will be screened. Passengers with negative RT-PCR test to undergo minimal checking like thermal scanning and symptoms checking.

c. As, despite all efforts by Railways, some passengers may not carry negative RT-PCR test, to the extent possible, DMA may set up Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) testing facility at the station, either through using Railway, state government or private labs. If it is not feasible or before it becomes operational, Local DMA, in consultation with the railway officials should decide on elaborate checking for the passengers without negative RT-PCR test. However, such passengers should be let go only after reasonable confirmation of them being non-infected.

d. Every passenger with positive result of test or with symptoms or refusing to undergo screening as decided above by DMA shall necessarily be moved to quarantine centres by DMA. If a passenger, however, wants to move to a hospital of choice that has bed available, DMA may allow the same.

e. All passengers without symptoms and without needing to be moved to quarantine centres by DMA, without fail shall be stamped on their hands for compulsory home quarantine for 15 days. This is required for those passengers also who are carrying negative RT-PCR test as well as who have tested negative in RAT at the station or otherwise.

f. Any person with a quarantined stamp found outside home except for medical emergency within the period of 15 days of stamping shall be fined with Rs. 1000/- and shall be moved to institutional quarantine.

11. Local DMA should plan, along with local MSRTC/local public bus transport officers about the buses that may ply to take these passengers for onward journey. It will be desirable that most of the persons coming out of the station go through planned MSRTC/local public bus transport buses smoothly and come in least contact with other citizens. MSRTC/local public bus transport should plan routes that may cover most of the passengers or if possible have flexible routes.

12. Railways should decide on extra precaution to be taken by their employees while serving trains from these origins.

13. COVID appropriate behaviour in the trains we well as the stations must be enforced rigorously.

14. Currently not all exits have thermal scanners. It is expected that Railways will establish these at the earliest.

15. Concerned publicity department of the origin state must be informed of our decision to put the origin on sensitive list so they can publicise the decision and ready the passengers for requirements of boarding. They should be requested to publicise the advisory that travellers to Maharashtra should go for RT-PCR test within 48 hours of travel.

16. As trains are on the move for long times before they reach destination and also passengers are seated in an orderly fashion, Railways may think of using this time of travel to conduct some tests or carry some operations that reduces time required for protocols at the station after disembarkment

17. Railway shall appoint nodal officer for the state level as well as various DMA level who shall be responsible for coordinating with SDMA and DMA for the purposes of these guidelines. SDMA and DMA shall ensure that all that is needed to be done to achieve the objectives of these guidelines is executed and may incur expenditure for the same as per the guidelines of expenditure on COVID-19 disaster management.

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