The Indian armed forces have revised the quarantine policy for members of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force amid their increased deployment in light of India-China tensions at Ladakh.
Soldiers who return from leave or temporary duties, or report for a new posting, will now be exempt from the mandatory 14-day quarantine unless a clear Covid-19 infection risk has been established.
According to the revised guidelines issued by the Directorate General of Armed Forces Medical Services Monday, exemption from quarantine may be considered if the personnel are asymptomatic and have not come into contact with a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 patient in the 14 days preceding their arrival at their base.
The guidelines cover all three branches of the military, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. They were issued exactly a week after the clash between India and China at Galwan Valley in Ladakh that killed 20 Indian soldiers. It was reported Tuesday that the two sides have resolved to avoid a repeat of the Galwan Valley violence and decided to pursue step-wise de-escalation in Ladakh.
So far, members of three branches have been mandated to serve a 14-day quarantine following their return from leave and temporary duties, and while reporting for a new posting.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior defence officer said, in the current scenario, there is always a requirement of having the maximum number of soldiers available for operational duties.
“On returning from leaves or other duties, the troops are in quarantine for 14 days. So, even though they are physically present, they are not available for operational requirements,” the officer added.
The revised policy was drafted on the recommendations of a board of officers after they reviewed the Covid-19 policies in place at a meeting. The recommendations of the board, sources said, were based on how the disease has evolved, evidence from global research, and the central government’s response to the pandemic.
Other conditions for exemption
The guidelines also suggest other conditions for exemption from quarantine: For example, if personnel have travelled from one station of duty to another without any halt in between, and used service transport or their own vehicle for the journey.
They can also avail of the exemption if they sign a self-declaration certificate validated by the commanding officer of their units.
The revised policy further says that testing will not be required for individuals before, during or after quarantine unless they exhibit symptoms. They state that temporary duties of less than seven days should be avoided unless absolutely urgent. Families or dependents of serving personnel will be quarantined on the basis of the policy in a given state, they add.
Another such concession was extended earlier this month to facilitate quick travel of the forces, in the days before the Galwan Valley clash. The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) allowed personnel stranded at various locations because of the limited transport available during the Covid-19 lockdown a one-time relaxation to use private airlines to get back to their units. The relaxation will be available for a month, until 10 July.