New Delhi (NVI): The Union Health Ministry today issued revised Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for people coming to India from the United Kingdom or transited through the country, following the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in the UK.
In a statement issued, the Health Ministry said that the SOPs for epidemiological surveillance and response is in the context of the new strain in the UK.
The Ministry said that according to the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC), the new variant of the virus is estimated to be more transmissible and affecting the younger population. “This variant is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations,” it said.
“One of the most significant is a 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 Health Ministry said in a statement.
The guidelines come a day after the government decided that all flights originating from the UK to India shall be temporarily suspended till 31st December (11:59 pm).
Under the new guidelines, all passengers coming from abroad will be required to declare travel history for the past 14 days and fill up the self-declaration form to be screened for COVID-19. Apart from that, States are directed to get the list of returnees.
As per the new SOP, UK passengers travelling from Dec 21-23 would be subjected to RT-PCR test on arrival and passengers testing positive shall be isolated in an institutional isolation facility earmarked by states. “Also, samples will be collected and sent for genomic sequencing,” the Ministry said.
“Contacts of the suspect case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three rows behind along with identified cabin crew,” it added.
It added that the existing treatment protocol can be followed for people who test positive for the older strain of the virus.
In case a person is infected with the mutant strain, they will be kept 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 document read.
Also, in case the sample is found positive on the 14th day, further samples may be taken until his two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart are tested negative.
Furthermore, the ministry said that people who test negative in RT-PCR tests at the airport would be advised to stay in home quarantine.
All concerned airlines will ensure that before check-in, the travellers are explained about the SOPs, it added.