Govt issues SOPs for infected travellers arriving from Britain

States have been asked to ramp up testing of those who arrived in the past month. (AP)
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Under the SOP, samples of patients who have arrived from or transited through UK between Monday and Wednesday will be sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) at Pune or any other appropriate lab for genomic sequencing.

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“If the genomic sequencing indicates the presence of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 then the patient will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit. 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 SOP said.

If the patient is found positive on even the fourteenth day, further sample may be taken until his two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart are tested negative, the SOP added.

The health ministry in its SOP has also asked state governments and Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) to ramp up surveillance and testing of all travellers who have come from the country into India in almost the last month.

“Those international travellers from UK who arrived in India from 25th November to 8th December 2020 (1st & 2nd week from 25th November) will be contacted by District Surveillance Officers and advised to self-monitor their health. If anyone amongst them develops symptoms, they will be tested by RT PCR,” the Union health ministry said in its SOP.

The SOP, which applies for all international passengers who have travelled from or transited through UK in the past four weeks, also asks the Bureau of Immigration to provide the manifest of all such passengers to India during that period to states and IDSP so that this data would be provided to the surveillance teams.

The government has also directed that all contacts of infected travellers —defined as co-passengers seated in the same row, 3 rows in front and 3 rows behind along with identified cabin crew—who arrived at airports in India between Monday and Wednesday would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centres. ICMR protocol mandates seven days each of institutional quarantine and then home quarantine if a person has not tested negative for RT-PCR ahead of arrival.

Airlines coming to India have been asked to ensure that prior to check-in, the traveller should be explained about the SOP, while in-flight announcements must also be made explaining the relevant information to the passengers. Relevant information in this regard shall be prominently displayed in arrival area and waiting area of the airports, the SOP said.

India on Monday announced that it has temporarily banned flights from UK to the country after the emergence of a new and highly infectious strain of the coronavirus in Britain. The suspension of flights from UK will come into effect from tomorrow, 22 December midnight and will continue till 31 December.

The latest decision by India came after governments of several countries like France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Switzerland, Bulgaria Romania, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Canada, Iran, Turkey, among others, temporarily suspended flights to and from the UK.

The new strain which is codenamed ‘VUI – 202012/01, has affected a large number of cases in London, the South East and the East of England. The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), in its threat assessment report on Sunday, said that the new variant of the virus was known to be up to 70% more contagious.

The decision by the government to suspend flights to the UK came after meetings of a joint monitoring group chaired by director general for health services Sunil Kumar, Vaccine Task Force headed by K. VijayRaghavan, principal scientific advisor to the government, and V.K. Paul, NITI Aayog’s member-health.

Countries around the world have begun banning flights and travellers from Britain as London said Sunday the spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain was now “out of control”.

France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and Bulgaria all announced restrictions on UK travel, hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be cancelled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronavirus variant.

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