Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi: Amping up preparatory measures in context of the new coronavirus strain that was discovered in the United Kingdom (UK), the central government on Tuesday tweaked its COVID-19 guidelines and issued a series of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which impose special rules on passengers arriving from Britain.

The SOPs, issued for "epidemiological surveillance and response in the context of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus", state that District Surveillance Officers will contact international travellers from the UK who arrived in India from November 25 to December 8 this year. On developing symptoms, they will also have to undergo mandatory RT-PCR testing, the new guidelines detail.

All flights from the UK have been temporarily suspended till December 31, and the present status of the suspension is to remain the same until further orders. Moreover, the state governments have been instructed to ensure that passengers travelling from or via UK are subjected to mandatory RT-PCR testing on arrival in India.

In the case of a positive sample, it is recommended that spike gene-based RT-PCR test should also be performed by an appropriate laboratory.

The new guidelines are divided into three parts, with one each dedicated to 'Actions to be taken at International Airports', 'SOP for Bureau of Immigration (BOI)', and 'SOP for Surveillance by State Governments/Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP)', respectively.

Listed here are the SOPs that are 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 4 weeks (from 25 November to 23 December 2020). For the purpose of clarity, we are referring to KI-PC12 testing when talking about standardized testing.

Here are detailed guidelines for passengers coming from the UK to India in the intervening period between December 21 to December 23:

1. All international travellers as described in the scope above will be required to declare as per existing procedure, their travel history (of past 14 days) and fill, the self-declaration form to he screened for COVID-19.

2. Respective state governments shall ensure that all passengers travelling from or transiting through airports in 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 by an appropriate laboratory.

3. Passengers testing positive shall be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit coordinated by the respective Stare Health Authorities. They would earmark specific facilities for such isolation and treatment. Necessary action to send the samples to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, or any other appropriate lab for genomic sequencing will he initiated at the facility level.

a. If the report of the sequencing is consistent with the current SARS-CoV-2 virus genome circulating in the country; the ongoing treatment protocol including home isolation/treatment at facility level as per case severity may be followed.

b. If the genomic sequencing indicates the presence of the 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 the 14th day, after having tested positive in the initial test. In case the sample is found positive on the 14th day, a further sample may be taken until his two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart are tested negative.

4. Those who are found negative on testing with RT-PCR at the airport would be advised quarantine at home and followed up.

5. The concerned airlines shall ensure that prior to check-in, the traveller is explained about this SOP. In-flight announcements must also be made explaining the relevant information to the passengers. Relevant information in this regard shall be prominently displayed in the arrival areas and waiting areas of the airports.

6. Adequate arrangements for passengers waiting for their RT-PCR test results duly following effective isolation may also be made at the airports in conjunction with the airport authorities.

7. All the contacts* (without any exception) of those travellers who arrived at various airports on December 21-23 and tested positive would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centres and would be tested as per ICMR guidelines (or earlier if the passenger develops any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19). Contacts testing positive shall be subjected to activities earlier mentioned above.

(*Contacts of the suspect case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, 3 rows in front and 3 rows behind along with identified Cabin Crew)

8. The list of travellers (travelling between December 21-23) who are found RT-PCR negative at airport testing shall be shared with the respective states by the Central unit of IDSP (facilitated by APHO/ BOI). They shall be advised for quarantine at home and tested as per ICMR guidelines (or earlier if the passenger develops any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19). Their monitoring would be ensured by respective state governments/IDSP.

9. Those international travellers from the UK who arrived in India from November 25 to December 8 (the first and the second week from November 25) will be contacted by the District Surveillance Officers and advised to self-monitor their health. If anyone amongst them develops symptoms, they will be tested by RT-PCR.

10. The list of international travellers who arrived in India, as described in the scope above, between December 9 to December 23 (the third and the fourth weeks) will be shared with respective State/District Surveillance Officers for daily follow-up till 14 days after their arrival in India.

11. Passengers will be provided the following advice during first visit/contact by health care provider:

a. Daily calls/visit from State health officials to inquire health status for the day.

b. Passengers are advised to self-monitor for development of symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 i.e. fever, cough, difficulty in breathing for 28 days from the date of arrival from the UK.

c. In case, symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty in breathing) are developed, travellers are advised to put on a mask immediately, isolate themselves at home, and inform Dirnict Surveillance Officer or contact National (1075) or State Helpline.

12. District Surveillance Officer has to ensure the daily follow-up of passengers under observation for 28 days starting from the date of arrival.

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