The Centre has issued a stringent set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) making RT-PCR tests mandatory at airports for passengers from the United Kingdom (UK), and quarantine in a separate unit of an institutional facility for positive cases, in the wake of the new mutant coronavirus strain found in Britain.
In a statement published on the health ministry's website as well as on its official Twitter handle, the ministry while issuing fresh guidelines has said that passengers who travelled from or transited through the UK in the past four weeks starting from November 25 to December 23, will be required to declare their travel history of the past 14 days as well as fill up a Self-Declaration Form to be screened for COVID-19.
#IndiaFightsCorona#Unite2FightCorona— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) December 22, 2020
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/K1afqwckwypic.twitter.com/SMsuZbRqSl
The Health Ministry's guidelines for epidemiological surveillance describe the activities to be undertaken at the point of entry and in the community for all flyers who have travelled from or transited through the UK from the said period.
The civil aviation ministry had on Tuesday announced the suspension of all UK flights from December 23 to December 31.
"This variant is estimated by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) to be more transmissible and effecting the younger population. This variant is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations. One of the most significant is an 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 between people," the ministry cautioned in a document released on Tuesday, December 22.
Below mentioned are the key points of the SOPs issued by the health ministry: -
- Passengers who arrived in India between November 25 and December 8, 2020, will be contacted by the respective District Surveillance Officers and advised to self-monitor their health.
- While flights between India and the UK have been suspended temporarily from December 23, all travellers coming from the UK during the intervening period from December 21 to 23, 2020 shall be subjected to COVID-19 test on arrival.
- All travellers from the UK will be required to declare their travel history of the past 14 days and fill up a self-declaration form to be screened at airports for COVID-19 using RT-PCR test.
- Passengers from or transitioning via British airports and landing in India will also be subject to a mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival. The new SOPs also said that in case of a positive test result, authorities will conduct a spike gene-based RT-PCR test.
- Passengers who test positive will be isolated at an institutional facility in a separate unit coordinated by the respective state health authorities.
- Authorities will send the samples of positive travellers to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune or any other relevant lab for genomic sequencing. This step will be taken at the facility level.
- In case the genomic sequencing demonstrates the presence of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 then the patient will stay put in a separate isolation unit. Meanwhile, necessary treatment in line with the existing protocol will be given and the patient will be tested on 14th day, after having tested positive in the first test.
- If the sample is found positive on 14th day, further sample might be taken until the patient's two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart are tested negative.