New Delhi: RT-PCR testing on arrival, separate isolation of those testing positive for the new variant of coronavirus, institutional quarantine for co-passengers of those testing positive: These are some of the salient requirements mentioned in the new standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the government of India today for travelers arriving from the UK. The SOP was published in the wake of growing fears around the new mutant variant of coronavirus detected recently in that country.
Releasing the SOP, the ministry of health and family welfare said this new variant of the virus is estimated by the 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. One of the most significant...changes...may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people," the ministry statement said.
In this context, the government has included in the SOP's purview all International passengers who have travelled from or transited through UK in the past four weeks (from November 25 to December 23).
To begin with, all such travelers are required to declare their travel history of the past 14 days and must fill up the self declaration form. They 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 also be performed on them.
If they test positive for the older variant of coronavirus, the ongoing treatment protocol may be followed, including home isolation or treatment at facility level, depending on the severity of the case.
However, if the presence of the new variant is detected, the patient will remain in the separate isolation unit with the regular treatment protocol being followed. Another test shall be conducted on the 14th day and, in case the sample is found positive, further samples may be taken until two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart test negative.
Airlines have been asked to ensure passengers are informed of the SOP prior to check-in.
The government has asked for state-wise passenger manifest of the flights from UK over the past four weeks (November 5 to December 23) to be provided by the Bureau of Immigration to the state governments and the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme so that this data can be provided to surveillance teams.