India gets tough on travellers flouting new COVID rules; FIR against offenders

As passengers from 'at risk countries' go missing, Indian authorities have tightened quarantine rules. Chandigarh filed an FIR against a woman for disobeying quarantine rules, Mumbai introduced a new home quarantine monitoring mechanism

Nearly ten passengers, reportedly South Africans, are missing from Bengaluru airport as well. Pic: PTI

After international passengers flying into India from “at risk countries” like South Africa are going “missing” and seem untraceable, the Indian authorities have tightened quarantine rules. The Chandigarh administration has even gone to the extent of filing a FIR against a woman for flouting home quarantine regulations.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is being extremely vigilant in the light of global concerns over the new variant Omnicron, has released a strict home quarantine monitoring mechanism on Friday (December 3) for international travellers arriving in India from ‘at risk’ countries.

Mumbai, which suffered the most in the first and second wave of the pandemic, is not taking any chances. People who disobey the regulations will be booked under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Epidemic Act, 1897, said media reports.

Moreover, the BMC will call passengers under home quarantine five times a day and the staff will also make periodic visits to their homes to ensure that protocols are being observed. Housing societies are also being roped in to ensure people are sticking to the protocols, and they have been told they can call in and inform the ward war rooms of any breach of COVID-19 norms.

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The Chandigarh administration has shown they mean business when they registered an FIR against a woman who returned from South Africa. Instead of staying at home in quarantine for seven days, the passenger who had tested negative for COVID, had checked into a hotel during that period. The authorities have booked her for violating home quarantine  norms, said media reports.

Also read: Omicron scare: Screening mandatory for foreign travellers, 1L daily tests

This nation-wide clampdown comes in the wake of a 66-year-old man, who had tested positive for COVID in Bengaluru after arriving from South Africa, quietly checked out of his hotel at midnight and left for Dubai. The man, who was double vaccinated, had conducted a test in a private lab which had come negative and so he escaped after a week of isolating himself. Efforts are on to track him down and isolate him in Dubai but 264 people he had come in contact with in India have tested negative.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut too, 13 of nearly 300 international passengers disappeared after giving false addresses and contact information. Seven of them had flown in from South Africa. Officials are hunting for them, trying to track and test them for COVID-19, said a NDTV report.

Meanwhile, nearly ten passengers, reportedly South Africans, are missing from Bengaluru airport as well. The airport security, police and the health department are on the job to track them down to ensure they get tested for COVID.

Suspected Omnicron cases recorded in India

In Delhi, 12 suspected Omicron cases were admitted to a hospital, after arriving on international flights over the past few days. Eight have already tested positive for COVID, while the results for the other four are not known as yet. Samples have been forwarded for genome sequencing to confirm the strain, the hospital authorities told NDTV.

At Chennai airport, two international passengers, including a child, coming in from a ‘at risk country’, tested positive for COVID. Samples have been sent for sequencing but the Tamil Nadu government has denied reports they are Omicron patients. In Jaipur too, a family tested positive for COVID after four members in the family returned from South Africa. They have been isolated at a government hospital in Jaipur and their samples have been sent for DNA sequencing.

Also read: 10 South African nationals go untraceable after landing in Bengaluru

Mumbai’s civic body gets tough

14 international travellers from ‘at risk countries’ have tested COVID-19 positive in Mumbai. Their samples have been sent for genome sequencing to check for the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, according to news reports, the municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said the new guidelines have been brought in to control the spread of the Omicron variant in Mumbai before it gets out of hand.

“MCGM (BMC) has introduced a very unique and strict home quarantine monitoring mechanism for international passengers arriving in Mumbai from risk countries. It will be as effective as institutional quarantine,” Chahal said, Indian Express reported.

Under the new guidelines, Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) will daily share a list of international travellers arriving at Mumbai from ‘at risk’ and ‘high risk’ countries, every day. The list, however, will only feature names of passengers who are Mumbai residents.

After getting the list, the Disaster Management Cell will send it to the 24 administrative wards based on their address. The ward war rooms will track, test and start contact tracing. On the seventh day of home quarantine, the traveller will be made to undergo a RT-PCR test. And, in the eventuality that he or she shows any symptoms or tests positive, they will be immediately shifted to BMC’s facilities for treatment.

The government expects more cases of this highly transmissible variant in the coming days and has therefore directed people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour and ensure they get the mandated double vaccination dose.

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