While most states and union territories have eased Covid restrictions, a few still want unvaccinated travelers to be required to have an RT-PCR test report within 48 to 96 hours before starting their trip or undergo a test upon arrival at their respective airports.
South Andaman Deputy Commissioner Suneel Anchipaka told PTI that the Union Territory is following instructions from its health department for a mandatory RT-PCR test report for unvaccinated travelers arriving at Port Blair airport.
Besides the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Ladakh is another territory of the Union where unvaccinated travelers must undergo an RT-PCR test at Leh airport. Dr. Motup Dorje, director of health services in Leh, said: “We do random RT-PCR tests on tourists.”
Some of the scientists called it a futile exercise without any scientific rationale and argued that when it has been scientifically confirmed that even a vaccinated person can transmit the virus, it makes no sense to mandate RT-PCR testing for unvaccinated people at airports.
Well-known epidemiologist Jayaprakash Muliyil said, “It is not necessary at all. Everyone has had the Covid infection at least once. Even if some of the people did not become infected with the original strain or the Delta variant, they contracted the highly immunogenic Omicron variant. It skyrocketed the previous immunity.”
“The Omicron has done us a great service. When people don’t wear masks these days, they have the benefits of a mild virus that infects and immunizes them,” he said.
Travelers also feel harassed because conflicting standards create unnecessary inconvenience.
“I went to Port Blair with six other family members and we had to pay for their RT-PCR test, which was an added financial burden,” claimed 28-year-old Sanjay, who recently flew to the island.
Outdated travel advisories on airline websites are also creating confusion, he said.
IndiGo has listed protocols on its website that various state governments have put in place for passengers arriving at their respective airports.
While it says these standards were updated no later than Nov. 9, many state health officials told PTI that they have long since withdrawn them.
In the case of Nagaland, the protocol on the website says, “All passengers aged 12 and over traveling to Nagaland are advised to obtain state or final vaccination certificate (two doses completed) no earlier than 72 hours after arrival.”
“These are outdated standards. We don’t ask anyone for an RT-PCR test, regardless of their vaccination status,” said Dr. Nyan Kikon, State Nodal Officer, IDSP Department of Health and Family Welfare, Nagaland. that no northeastern state currently has such standards in effect.
On its website, SpiceJet informs travelers wishing to travel to Srinagar that if they do not have their vaccination certificate with them, they must either carry their negative RT-PCR test report or undergo a rapid antigen test upon arrival.
“This is not an updated status. Now we don’t need a certificate like that for anyone, whether they’re vaccinated or not,” said Dr. Syed Manzoor Kadri, State Surveillance Officer, Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP), Kashmir.
While airlines declined to comment, some states have admitted that airlines have not updated their latest advisories.
“I think both the health departments and the airlines need to be on the same wavelength so that tourists and people traveling from one state to another don’t suffer,” said a senior airline officer. PTI JP JP ANB ANB