Flying from UAE to Kerala? COVID-19 negative test result mandatory on seventh day after arrival to end quarantine

A special repatriation flight of Air Arabia chartered by Joy Alukkas for the jewellery group’s employees and their family members flew  home 143 adults, 25 children and 6 infants from Sharjah to Kochi in Kerala after they cleared rapid tests for COVID-19 on Monday night. A top official on Wednesday clarified that Kerala’s new rule mandating COVID-19 test for all passengers getting repatriated to the state from abroad would not impact those from the UAE as they already undergo rapid antibody tests.
Passengers arrive at Kochi airport on a repatriation flight from the UAE. All visitors to Kerala shall be advised to undergo quarantine for seven days, said the order.
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Passengers flying from the UAE to Kerala can now be quarantined for just seven days if they test negative for COVID-19 on the seventh day after reaching the South Indian state. Kerala has relaxed COVID-19 quarantine rules for visitors to the South Indian state with effect from Wednesday, as per a government order issued on Tuesday night.

All visitors to Kerala shall be advised to undergo quarantine for seven days, said the order issued by the chief secretary Dr. Vishwas Mehta. “They can be tested on the seventh day after arrival and if tested negative, further quarantine of seven days is optional and not mandatory, though 14 days’ quarantine is desirable as per health protocol,” stated the order.

Speaking to Gulf News over phone from Kerala, Dr. A. Jayathilak, principal secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management Department, said the new order supersedes all other guidelines related to quarantine issued previously and is applicable to international passengers as well. “Everyone landing in Kerala must undergo COVID-19 test on the seventh day — either RT-PCR or rapid antigen test,” the official clarified.

“This is applicable to anybody coming from outside the state with or without a COVID-19 negative test result. Irrespective of the test they are doing and the number of days after arrival, have to report immediately if they develop any symptoms. Anybody testing positive shall follow the protocol for the COVID-19 patients,” he explained

New requirements

Dr. Jayathilak said all passengers to Kerala are required to register their details on the covid19jagratha portal of the state government. Whether they want to do a pre-departure test or not is up to the passenger and the rules in the port of their departure, the official said.

Passengers will be contacted by health authorities to remind them about doing a COVID test on the seventh day after arrival. The state is currently not insisting on institutional quarantine, the official confirmed. “All passengers are allowed to proceed for home quarantine. However, if they want institutional quarantine, that can be arranged,” he said.

The government has decided to relax the quarantine rules “because the policy now is to live and work with COVID-19 and to stimulate economic activities,” he said. “It is not feasible for any economy to be shut for long. Several governments are relaxing rules for the same reason,” he pointed out. The state has reported more than 148,000 cases and over 570 deaths, majority of which were recorded after it started receiving Malayalis from other Indian states and countries across the world.

Huge number of returnees

Kerala has a strong relationship with the UAE with more than one million Indian expats in the country hailing from the state before the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 200,000 of them have flown back home due to various reasons during the pandemic ever since India began the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate stranded Indians from abroad, according to Neeraj Agrawal, consul for Press, Information and Culture at the Indian Consulate in Dubai.

About 80 to 90 per cent of the passengers from the UAE to India are now carrying RT-PCR negative test results to avoid institutional quarantine in various states and for safety reasons, he said. “We have been encouraging people to go with the negative test result and also take another test after reaching India if they are venturing out for some reason.”

However, the consulate is yet to be officially informed about the changes in quarantine rules in Kerala. As per the guidelines issued by the government of India, all international passengers are required to upload a self-declaration form under the Air Suvidha initiative through the portal of the New Delhi Airport. This is still applicable to international passengers to Kerala as well, Agrawal clarified.

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