All passengers coming from the UK between January 8 and January 30 would be subjected to self-paid COVID-19 tests on arrival, the health ministry said in a standard operating procedure (SOP) issued on Saturday. Moreover, each passenger arriving from the UK would have to bring his or her COVID-19 negative report from a test done 72 hours prior to the journey, the SOP stated.
India had suspended all flights to and from the United Kingdom from December 23 to 31 to check the spread of the mutated, more contagious variant of coronavirus found there. Later, the suspension was extended till January 7. Only 30 flights per week will operate between India and the UK when services resume from January 8 and this arrangement will continue till January 23, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said on Friday.
"Airlines to ensure the availability of negative test report before allowing the passenger to board the flight," the health ministry's SOP stated. It said adequate arrangements should be made for the passengers who will be waiting for their RT-PCR test or its results at the airport.
"Passengers testing positive shall be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit coordinated by the respective state health authorities," the SOP said. If the genomic sequencing indicates the presence of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the patient will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit, it said.
The patient will be tested on the 14th day after having tested positive and he or she will be kept in the isolation facility till his or her sample has tested negative, it added. If a passenger tests COVID-positive on arrival, passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three rows behind would also be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centers, the SOP said.
The passengers who are found COVID-negative after the tests conducted at the airport would be advised home quarantine for 14 days and the concerned state or district administration should regularly follow up with them, it said. "The states/UTs (union territories) government concerned are requested to set up help desks at airports concerned to facilitate implementation of the SOP," it added.
The presence of the new UK variant of the virus has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the pandemic.
However, airlines have been permitted to operate special international flights under the Vande Bharat Mission since May this year and under the bilateral air bubble pacts since July. India has formed air bubble pacts with 24 countries, including the UK.