As many as 22 people who flew to India from the United Kingdom to India in the past few days have been found COVID-19-positive, amid concerns over the new strain of the virus spreading in the UK.
According to NDTV, 11 of the passengers tested positive in Delhi, eight in Amritsar, two in Kolkata and one in Chennai.
Samples of the COVID-19-positive fliers have been sent to labs like the National Institute of Virology in Pune to see if they are carrying the mutant COVID strain.
Even though there is no evidence on the presence of the mutant strain in India, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday temporarily banned flights from the UK between December 22 and December 31.
As a precautionary measure, the government also issued standard operating procedure (SOP) for those flying in to India from the UK, making RT-PCR test on arrival mandatory for them.
Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri advised a seven-day isolation for passengers from UK, adding that those testing positive should be sent for institutional quarantine set up by the state or Union territory.
Delhi airport on Tuesday saw a panic-stricken atmosphere after five COVID-19 positive passengers went missing after landing.
Three of them were traced on Tuesday night and admitted to Delhi’s Lok Nayak Hospital while the two other who had reached Punjab and Andhra Pradesh were brought back on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, teams of health department and civil defence volunteers have been deployed at the district level to keep watch on the persons who returned from the UK in the last two weeks and tested negative but are required to undergo home isolation.
Delhi Health minister Satyendar Jain said tracing and testing of all those who travelled to Delhi from the UK in the past two weeks will be ensured.
“Delhi government is aware, and all the people who have travelled from the UK to Delhi in the past two weeks will be traced, tested and advised quarantine,” he said in a statement.
A district magistrate said the Bureau of Civil Aviation has shared details of those who have returned from the UK and teams are visiting them to check for any symptoms of the virus and report them for testing.
“We are making sure that all those who have returned from UK in past two weeks are being contacted and ensured RTPCR test if any symptoms are reported . Tracing of their contacts after return to Delhi is also underway,” he said.
The government has set up a separate facility at the LNJP hospital for those passengers from the UK who are found COVID-19 positive in the RTPCR tests conducted at the IGI airport, for their treatment and genomic testing, officials said. Besides, a five star hotel in Aerocity near the airport has been earmarked as a paid quarantine facility, while a COVID care centre in south Delhi will serve as a free institutional isolation facility for passengers from flights in which positive cases are detected, they said.
Those passengers who have returned from the UK in the past few weeks and have been found negative will undergo two weeks home isolation followed by another two week period under observation, officials said.
Jain said while the new strain is contagious, the only way to protect from any infection is by wearing a mask and taking all proper precautions. He requested people to be careful saying no matter the strain, the only way to protect oneself is by wearing the mask when stepping out.