Maharashtra announces new Covid rules, says no to the Centre’s mission

In the latest fight between the Center and Maharashtra over Covid rules, the Union Ministry of Health on Wednesday told the state government that the revised guidelines for international travel, following the advent of Omicron, are “divergent” with the central rules and urged to “align” them for a “uniform implementation”.

However, said Maharashtra Chief Secretary Debashish Chakraborty Indian Express that the state will not “modify or revise” its guidelines – for the time being. Later, official sources indicated that “there may be some changes” on Thursday, with revisions of some restrictions.

“In accordance with the Law on Disaster Management and the Law on Epidemic Diseases, the state government has the power to put additional conditions in place to prevent the spread of the virus. So the state, acting in accordance with its authority, has decided not to fix or revise the current guidelines issued for international passengers, “he said.

According to Chakraborty, the Center’s communication is “a piece of advice, not a constraint.” “There are basic requirements that must be met, that we comply with. In the future, if changes are made, given the local situation and the convenience of international passengers, we will take them into account, “he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Health Union Secretary-General Rajesh Bhushan wrote to Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Secretary, Dr. Pradeep Kumar Vyas, that four specific guidelines adopted by the state for international travel are “in line with the SoPs and guidelines issued” by Maharashtra. ministry.

According to the Center, the four key points of the divergence are:

* Mandatory RT-PCR testing of all international passengers at Mumbai airport, regardless of country of origin. The center mandated such testing only for those at “at risk” countries.

* Mandatory 14-day home quarantine for all international passengers who test negative on arrival. The center had specified seven days.

* Mandatory RT-PCR test for passengers intending to make connecting flights after landing in Mumbai; subsequent travel is subject to a negative RT-PCR result. The center does not have such a rule.

* Requirement of a negative RT-PCR test 48 hours before the date of travel for domestic passengers traveling from other states to Maharashtra, regardless of vaccination status. The center has not issued such a guide.

“Therefore, I urge you to align the orders issued by the state with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health … so that the uniform implementation of the guidelines is ensured in all states. I would also advise that such amended state government orders be widely publicized to avoid any inconvenience to travelers, ”Bhushan wrote.

Maharashtra has also imposed a seven-day institutional quarantine on all passengers from “at-risk countries”, which is not part of the Centre’s latest guidelines.

This is not the first time the Center and Maharashtra have differed on Covid issues, especially after Maharashtra repeatedly signaled a shortage of vaccines and a lack of adequate medical oxygen supplies.

On April 7, the then Union Minister for Health, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, responding to Maharashtra ministers’ remarks about the vaccine shortage, said there were “deplorable attempts” by the state government to “divert attention from their failures and to spread panic among the people ”. .

On April 17, Union Minister for Railways and Trade and Industry Piyush Goyal posted on Twitter that he was “saddened to see” the “tricks” of Prime Minister Uddhav Thackeray on oxygen, claiming that Maharashtra had received the maximum amount of oxygen in the country. .

On Sunday, following reports from around the world of the emergence of Omicron, the Union Ministry of Health specified five steps for international travelers arriving from countries labeled as “at risk”:

* They will need to send a sample for a Covid test to the arrival point and wait for the result before leaving or taking a connecting flight.

* If the test is negative, they will have to be quarantined at home for seven days. This will be followed by a retest on the eighth day after arrival. They will have to monitor their own health for the next seven days.

* If passengers test positive, their samples will be sent for genomic testing to the INSACOG network of laboratories.

* Those who test positive will be sent to a separate isolation unit and treated according to the standard protocol, including contact tracking.

* Contacts of positive cases will be kept in institutional quarantine or at home and strictly monitored by the state government concerned, according to the protocol.

In addition to all European countries, including the United Kingdom, there are 10 other nations currently listed as “at risk” by the Ministry of Health: South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

In addition, for journeys from countries other than those at risk, a subsection – currently two percent of all flight passengers – will have to be randomly tested after arrival at airports.

A senior Covid Task Force official in Maharashtra said that because “the virus has already spread to more than 10 countries, we cannot restrict screening to countries at risk” and that “an RT-PCR for all travelers will ensure better security ”.