The Maharashtra government made it mandatory today for people travelling to the state from the National Capital Region (NCR), Gujarat, Rajasthan and Goa to produce reports showing they have tested negative for the coronavirus disease, moving to curb a possible spike in infections after the festive season.
An air traveller arriving from the places specified by the government, including the national capital of Delhi, will have to show a negative report of an RT-PCR test, considered gold standard for COVID-19 screening. The test has to be undertaken 72 hours before the scheduled time of landing, according to a notification issued by chief secretary Sanjay Kumar.
Passengers failing to provide such a report will have to undergo rapid antigen tests at the airport of arrival. If found positive, they will have to follow existing protocols laid down for COVID-19 patients.
For a train traveller, a negative RT-PCR report — the test has to be done 96 hours before the scheduled arrival — will be a valid entry pass. In the absence of any such report, a passenger will be screened at railway stations on arrival for symptoms.
“The passengers with the symptoms will have to undergo rapid antigen testing and will be sent to the Covid Care Centres (CCC) if the report comes positive. The cost of the test and treatment will have to be borne by the passengers,” said the notification. This will be applicable for passengers arriving on trains crossing the four regions, which are witnessing a high caseload.
There will be mandatory screening at border check posts for people of the four places coming into Maharashtra by road. Passengers without symptoms will be allowed entry, the order said.
The new travel norms will take effect from 25 November, home minister Anil Deshmukh said.
The order said that all domestic passengers travelling from airports in Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa shall carry RT-PCR negative test reports with them before boarding and show them to teams deputed at the airport of arrival in Maharashtra. “The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is requested to check the report before allowing passengers to board flights,” the order said.
In a video message, Deshmukh noted that the number of COVID-19 cases have been rising in several states after Diwali. He said the government took the decision to ensure that there is no further rise in Maharashtra.
As of 23 November, Maharashtra has registered a total of 17,84,361 and 46,653 deaths, the worst in the country. Over the past week (15-22 November), the number of new infections has grown by an average of 0.3% every day, according to covid19india.org.
While Delhi (534,317 total cases) is witnessing a third wave of infections, Gujarat (198,899 total cases) and Rajasthan (247,168 total cases) are two of the eight states where the Centre has sent special teams over the past two weeks to take stock of the situation. Goa (46,901 total cases), too, is reporting a rise in cases.
The number of new infections has grown by an average of 1.3% every day in Delhi over the past week. The figures for Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa for the same period stand at 1.1%, 0.7% and 0.3%, respectively.
With queries being raised as to how hundreds of passengers coming by trains would be checked in Mumbai, the Central and Western Railway clarified that they will not be undertaking the screening of passengers.
“The state government-appointed nodal officers from civic bodies/district collectorates were undertaking screenings of passengers outside railway stations when the long route trains resumed after lockdown. The practice will continue this time too. We will provide them with data on the details of passengers and the arrival of trains in Maharashtra. Passenger address and mobile details will be provided to them,” said a senior Central Railway official, requesting anonymity.