India has asked airlines to identify international travelers arriving from or transiting through United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa and segregate them in-flight or while disembarking to minimise the risk of importation of mutant strains of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19 virus).
The revised standard operating procedures (SOPs) for international arrivals issued by the Health Ministry on February 17 comes in the wake of mutant variants of Covid-19 virus driving the pandemic in these countries. The guidelines will be applicable from February 22 onwards.
Travelers from the three countries who test positive either at the airport or during home quarantine, or their contacts who turn positive, will be isolated in an institutional isolation facility coordinated by the respective State Health Authorities, the guideline says. The test samples of such persons will be sent to Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) Labs to check for the presence of new variant of SARS-CoV-2.
"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. The patient will be kept in the isolation facility till his sample is tested negative," the guideline adds.
Travelers coming and transiting from flights originating from the three countries should submit Self-Declaration Form (SDF) for Covid-19 on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel and will be required to declare their travel history of past 14 days. All the passengers including those arriving from United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East should carry negative RT-PCR Test report.
The test must be conducted 72 hours prior to the journey. However, all travelers arriving from or transiting through flights originating in the three countries will be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival at Indian airports. These travelers will have to wait for six to eight hours at the exit airport as they will be allowed to move out only after confirmation of negative test report.
The guideline says the transit travelers from UK, Brazil and South Africa who are found negative on testing at the airport will be allowed to take their connecting flights and will be advised quarantine at home for 7 days. They will be regularly followed up by concerned State/District agencies. They will be tested again after 7 days and if negative, released from quarantine. However, their health will be monitored for further 7 days.
The ministry said the guideline has been necessitated as there is increasing evidence that the mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2 have demonstrated increased transmissibility. So far 86 countries have reported infections from the UK variant while South Africa and Brazil variants have been reported in 44 and 15 countries, respectively.