The Ministry of Health has issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Epidemiological Surveillance and Response in the context of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus detected in United Kingdom.
The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) describes the activities to be undertaken at the point of entry and in the community for all international passengers who have travelled from or transited through the UK in the past four weeks (from November 25, 2020 to December 23, 2020).
A health ministry order said the flights from the UK have been suspended temporarily from December 23 to December 31, 2020 or till further orders. All the passengers travelling from or transiting through airports in the UK and disembarking in India would be subjected to RT-PCR test on arrival. In case of a positive sample, it is recommended that spike gene-based RT-PCR test should also be performed. Passengers testing positive will be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit coordinated by the respective State Health Authorities. Necessary action to send the samples to National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune or any other appropriate lab for genomic sequencing will be initiated at the facility level. If the genomic sequencing indicates the presence of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 then the patient will be kept in the separate isolation unit and treated as per the clinical protocol.
Those who are found negative on testing with RT-PCR at the airport would be advised quarantine-at-home. Prior to check-in, the traveler will be explained about this SOP and in-flight announcements must also be made. International travellers from the UK who arrived in India over last one month will be contacted by District Surveillance Officers and monitored in community. State governments and Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme will ensure that all the contacts of those travellers from the UK or transiting through the UK in last four weeks will be traced and monitored. They will also be tested as per protocol and contacts of positive cases would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centers for effective isolation and monitoring.
A new variant of SARS- CoV 2 virus [Variant Under Investigation (VUI)-20212/01] was reported by the Government of United Kingdom (UK) to World Health Organisation (WHO). This variant is estimated by European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) to be more transmissible and affecting younger population. This variant is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations, including a significant drift, N501Y mutation in the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor. Changes in this part of the spike protein may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily among people.