Travel and quarantine rules have changed since the publishing of this article. Visit this page to find the updated rules.

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On Thursday, as the first Rajdhani from Delhi pulled into Majestic railway station, many travellers were taken by surprise when they were told that everyone on the train had to go through paid institutional quarantine in Bengaluru or go back to Delhi. Soon enough, 150-odd travellers sat on dharna and refused to go into quarantine, stating they hadn’t been informed about the rule beforehand.

The Health and Family Welfare Services Department has released a series of orders, circulars and advisories regulating inter-district, inter-state and international travel since early May. These rules have changed many times over the past week, leading to a lot of confusion. Here’s an explainer on the rules and conditions for different categories of travellers arriving in Bengaluru.

The process of travelling to Karnataka

a. Registration on Seva Sindhu

Regardless of whether you’re an inter-district, inter-state or international traveller, the process now begins by registration on the state Seva Sindhu website or by calling the helpline 080-22636800.

b. Screening and quarantining

“Everyone who comes in from outside is screened and quarantined now”, says Dr Shivakumar M, Deputy Health Officer, BBMP. Regardless of your mode of transport, you’ll be screened upon arrival in Bengaluru. “If you come to Bengaluru by train, you’ll arrive at Majestic or Yeshwanthpur. You’ll be screened at the station itself. This involves filling up a self-reported form, temperature check, reporting of medical history, among other things,” says Shivakumar.

Based on screening, travellers are classified into Category 1 – symptomatic, or Category 2 – asymptomatic. Those under Category 1 are taken to Dedicated COVID Healthcare Centers (DCHC) for testing.

Those under Category 2 are put under institutional quarantine in designated COVID Care Centers (CCCs) – either paid hotels/hostels or free government shelters at schools or Kalyana mandapas (wedding halls).

Quarantining at one of the paid options can be an expensive affair. “The 5-star hotels can be from Rs. 3000-5000/day, the 3-star around Rs. 1500 and the budget ones from Rs. 750-1200. There is also a free option at Kalyana mandapas, but the facilities like separate toilets are not there like in the paid accommodation,” says Shivakumar.

Testing

In the case of international and inter-state travellers, both symptomatic and asymptomatic persons are tested after arrival using RT-PCR swab kits. If they test positive, they are sent to Dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals (DCH) for treatment and if they test negative, they may be released into institutional or home quarantine. The rules are less stringent for inter-district travellers.

To ensure home quarantine is enforced, travellers sent for home quarantine are briefed, stamped with indelible ink on their hands and are expected to download three apps – Aarogya Setu, Quarantine Watch (for self-reporting) and Apthamitra (survey for symptoms).

Further, a sticker may be placed on the house of a person in-home quarantine and neighbours may be informed. The local RWA too may be roped in to help as an enforcer.

“If possible, don’t travel right now. Stay put where you are, unless necessary,” says Shivakumar. While the circulars and orders released by the Karnataka Health and Family Welfare Services department since early May outline roughly the same process, regardless of the type of travel (inter-state, intra-state or international), there are some caveats, exceptions and specific considerations.

Inter-District Travel

Quarantine Testing
Category 1 (Symptomatic) Screened at the entry point and referred to DCHC for sample collection and isolation
If positive – shifted to DCH
If negative – 14 day home quarantine
Testing on arrival
If negative – referred to other hospitals and released into home quarantine
Category 2 (Asymptomatic) Screened at the entry point
No quarantine
Not Required

SOP for Inter-district Travellers

The state government had earlier allowed for a one-time pass for people stranded within Karnataka to go back home in other districts of the state. Special intra-state buses had also been arranged, keeping in mind the plight of stranded migrant workers.

But for inter-district travel now, you need to register on Seva Sindhu portal so as to get an e-pass.

Inter-district travel is still mostly reserved for those needing a one-time pass (stranded workers, students, etc.) and is possible only through the specific entry and exit points of districts.

Screening: Like in the case of inter-state travellers, inter-district travellers will be screened for symptoms upon arrival at the district border entry points.

Testing and Quarantine: Category 1 (symptomatic) travellers will be sent to nearby DCHCs for testing immediately upon arrival and if positive will be shifted to a COVID hospital. If negative, they will be released into 14-day home quarantine.

On Thursday, Health Department clarified that Category 2 (asymptomatic) inter-district travellers need not be subjected to any kind of quarantine.

Inter-State Travel

Quarantine Testing
Category 1 (Symptomatic) Screened on arrival
All will be sent to institutional quarantine for 14 days
Lab Testing will begin on 10th day
If negative will be sent home after 14th day
If positive, will be sent to DCH
Category 2 (Asymptomatic) Screened on arrival
All will be sent to institutional quarantine for 14-days
Lab Testing will begin on 10th day
If negative will be sent home after 14th day
If positive, will be sent to DCH

SOP for Inter-state Travellers

Seva Sindhu Applications: According to the latest Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for inter-state travel released on May 12, the following sections of people are allowed to apply on Seva Sindhu:

  • Those returning to the state due to death in the family
  • Those facing medical emergency/terminal illness
  • Pregnant women/elderly persons
  • Migrant workers/labourers who have been laid off
  • Students whose educational institutions/hostels have been closed
  • Stranded tourists/pilgrims
  • International travellers arriving at airports outside Karnataka.

Quarantine and Testing:

A recent press note dated May 16 clarified that as per the current policy of the Karnataka government, all interstate travellers will be sent into mandatory institutional quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not.

After that, lab testing will be done from day 10 onwards and then they can go home on day 14 if the result is negative. If the result is positive, they will go to Designated COVID Hospitals (DCH).

Exemptions: There are exemptions for pregnant women, the elderly (over 80 years of age), persons suffering from terminal illnesses and children under 10 years of age. For them, testing will be done within two days of arrival.

If test results are positive, they will be sent to designated hospitals like the others. However, unlike the rest, if their test results are negative, they will not have to complete institutional quarantine. Instead, they will complete the remainder of the 14-day period at home. At the end of this period, they will have to report back to government facilities to get tested for a second time, following which they will be either sent home or to the hospital.

International Travel

Quarantine Testing
Category 1 (Symptomatic) Screened upon arrival at the airport
Sent to DCHC for testing and isolation
Tested twice – once on arrival and then on 14th day
If negative, sent for institutional quarantine at COVID Care Centers and tested again on 14th day.
If positive, sent to DCH for treatment and isolation
Category 2 (Asymptomatic) Screened upon arrival
Sent for 14-day Institutional quarantine at COVID Care Centres
Home quarantine if CCCs don’t have enough capacity
Tested twice – once on arrival and then on 14th day
If negative, sent for institutional quarantine at COVID Care Centers and tested again on 14th day If positive, sent to DCH

SOP for International Travellers

The latest SOPs for international travellers were released on May 6 and 8. While they don’t mention the need for registering on Seva Sindhu, the portal has a section for international travel.

Screening: All travellers at points of entry (airports and seaports) will be screened for symptoms, as in case of domestic travellers. The screening process involves a self-reported form, thermal scanning, pulse oximeter reading (to check oxygen saturation in the blood), stamping, checking of medical history and categorisation. Travellers may also be required to download the three COVID apps.

Testing and Quarantine: Category 1 (symptomatic) international travellers will be sent to Dedicated COVID Health Centres (DCHC) for testing and isolation. If they test positive, they will be shifted to Dedicated COVID Hospitals (DCH) for treatment and isolation. If negative, they will be put under 14 days of institutional quarantine at COVID Care Centres (CCC). These include both paid at hotels/hostels and free options.

Category 2 (asymptomatic) travellers too will have to go into 14 days of institutional quarantine at COVID Care Centres, followed by a 14-day self-reporting period. In case there is not enough capacity at the centres, Category 2 travellers may be sent for home quarantine.

In a revision on May 8, the state government declared that all international passengers will be tested twice, once on arrival and then on the 14th day, after which they will be discharged if the result is negative.

Exceptions and Special Instructions: On May 13, the government revised the SOPs for international travellers to offer relaxations to certain groups of people. It excused institutional quarantine for:

  • pregnant women
  • children under 10 years of age
  • senior citizens over 80, and
  • terminally-ill patients (cancer, chronic kidney disease, etc.)

Home Quarantine: All asymptomatic (Category 2) passengers will be sent to a 14-day institutional quarantine. The home quarantine will be considered only in case Institution Quarantine facilities are over capacity or for those exempted (see above).

To ensure the home quarantine is carried out properly, local RWAs will be informed about the need to enforce the quarantine. The mobile number of the traveller may also be ‘ring-fenced’ (tracked and monitored within an area).

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