The Maharashtra government has extended restrictions till June 1 and tightened rules for travel to Maharashtra from other states. Till now, those travelling to Maharashtra from specific states, identified as ‘sensitive areas’, required to hold an negative RT-PCR test report. From Friday, however, negative RT-PCR test report, obtained 48 hours before entry into the state, has been made mandatory for all travellers.
Considering delay in the receipt of RT-PCR test reports, however, rail and air travellers are being allowed to de-board at their destinations in Maharashtra, and being tested using RT-PCR or antigen methods upon arrival. There is a lack of clarity for those travelling by road as the state does not grant one-way e-passes to travellers from other states.
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Such individuals will have to apply with local authorities in their own states for interstate travel permission to Maharashtra and comply with e-pass rules in the home state.
What are the new interstate travel directives by state government?
According to the order issued by state chief secretary Sitaram Kunte, any person entering Maharashtra by any mode of transport will have to carry a negative RT-PCR test report. The report will have to be issued within 48 hours before entry into the state.
Restrictions imposed on people arriving from ‘sensitive origins’ have now been extended to everyone arriving in Maharashtra from other parts of the country.
In case of cargo carriers, only two persons will be allowed in the vehicle. If carriers are originating from outside Maharashtra, they will be allowed with a negative RT-PCR test report issued 48 hours before entry into the state and will be valid for seven days, the order stated.
Practically, however, passengers arriving in Maharashtra by air, rail or road without an RT-PCR test report have to go through varying processes.
Airlines may allow passengers to board for an airport in Maharashtra even if they do not have an RT-PCR test report if they agree to get tested upon arrival. For such passengers, airport authorities have arranged for swab collection centres where they can submit their throat-nasal swabs after payment.
For example, at Pune Airport, passengers without negative RT-PCR test report are ferried to a sample collection booth set up at the arrival area and a sample is collected. “Contact details and address of the passenger is collected at this time. Once the test results arrive, names and contact details of the passengers who have tested positive are shared with municipal authorities, who then proceed with established protocols,” said an official of Airports Authority of India at Pune.
Railway officials said they dealt with incoming in accordance with the advisories issued by the state government, pertaining to passengers coming from ‘sensitive locations’.
According to the advisory, passengers coming to Maharashtra must carry a negative RT-PCR test report. However, if they fail to carry it, they will be checked at the arrival station.
“As despite all efforts by Railways, some passengers may not carry negative RT-PCR test reports, to the extent possible, DMA and railway authorities may set up rapid antigen testing facility at the station, either using railways, state government or private labs. If it is not feasible or before it becomes operational, local DMA, in consultation with railway officials should decide elaborate checking for passengers without negative RT-PCRT test report. Such passengers, however, should be allowed to leave only after reasonable confirmation of not being infected,” said the government advisory issued last month about long-distance trains.
Police at entry points to Maharashtra only check for the e-pass to allow entry to a vehicle. At present, Maharashtra only issues emergency passes for those staying in Maharashtra who need to travel to another state (and return). It does not provide passes to individuals presently located outside the state and want to travel to Maharashtra.
An official with Nanded police – who is deputed at checkpoints at Maharashra-Telangana border – said they only checked if the vehicle had a valid e-pass to enter the state.
“The authorities in the neighbouring state must ensure that requisite medical documents such as Covid test reports and death certificates are attached by the applicant while seeking the e-pass,” the police officer said.