The Indian government has issued a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for travellers arriving from the UK, including mandatory RT-PCR testing on arrival, separate isolation of those found infected with the new strain of the virus, and institutional quarantine of co-travellers of those testing positive.
The health ministry of India said that according to the European Centre for Disease Control, the new variant of the virus is more transmissible and targeting the younger population. “But it has not been seen in India so far,” said Dr VK Paul, a NITI Aayog member.
Health Ministry issues Standard Operating Procedure for Epidemiological Surveillance and Response in the context of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus detected in United Kingdom.https://t.co/K1afqwckwy pic.twitter.com/SMsuZbRqSl
— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) December 22, 2020
It said in a statement: “This variant is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations. One of the most significant…changes…may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people.”
The SOP comes amid a flight ban imposed on the UK by several countries, including India, after the UK government warned that the new variant of the virus detected recently in the country was “out of control”. From tonight, no flight services will operate between India and the UK till December 31, the government had said.
The SOP also directed all international passengers who have travelled from or transited through the UK since November 25 to fill a self-declaration form and declare their travel history of the past 14 days. They would undergo a RT-PCR test on arrival and in case of a positive sample, it is recommended that a spike gene-based RT-PCR test is also performed.
The passengers testing positive with the current variant will have to follow the ongoing treatment protocol, “including home isolation/treatment at facility level as per case severity may be followed.”
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But if a passenger is found with the new UK strain, the patient will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit. While necessary treatment as per the existing protocol will be given, the patient shall be tested on 14th day, after having tested positive in the initial test. In case the sample is found positive on the 14th day, further samples may be taken until his two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart are tested negative, the SOP said.
Besides, airlines have been told to ensure that the passengers are aware of the SOP before they check in.
The government has also asked for the state-wise passenger manifest of the flights from the UK for the past four weeks, to be provided by the Bureau of Immigration to the state governments and Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).