The Union Health Ministry has issued standard operating procedure (SOP) for epidemiological surveillance and response in the context of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus detected in the United Kingdom (UK) in which it has stated that all international travellers who have travelled from or transited through the UK in the past four weeks will be required to declare their travel history of past 14 days and fill up the Self Declaration form to be screened for COVID-19.
“All international travellers who have travelled from or transited through the UK in the past four weeks will be required to declare as per existing procedure, their travel history (of past 14 days) and fill up the Self Declaration form to be screened for COVID-19,” the Health Ministry stated in the SOPs issued for actions to be taken at international airports.
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The SOPs further describe the activities 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 four weeks (from November 25 to December 23, 2020). Any reference to testing in this SOP implies RT-PCR testing only.
The Health Ministry has issued SOPs separately for actions to be taken at international airports, Bureau of Immigration (BOI) and for surveillance by state governments/Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).
The Health Ministry said that the respective state governments shall ensure that all passengers travelling from or transiting through airports in the UK and disembarking in India would be subjected to RT-PCR test on arrival. 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.
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It further said that passengers testing positive shall be isolated in an institutional facility in a separate (isolation) unit coordinated by the respective state health authorities. They would earmark specific facilities for such isolation and treatment. necessary action to send the samples to National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune or any other appropriate lab for genomic sequencing will be initiated at the facility level.
The persons testing negative will be advised home quarantine.
Informing about the new strain of coronavirus found in the UK, the Health Ministry briefed: “A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus [variant under investigation (VUI)-20212/01] has been reported by the Government of United Kingdom (UK) to World Health Organization (WHO). This variant is estimated by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) to be more transmissible and affecting 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,” it added.
Earlier, the Ministry of Civil Aviation on Monday had announced in the light of the new strain of coronavirus found in the UK that the flights from and to the UK stand temporarily suspended from December 23 to 31, 2020 or till further orders.
The government has also issued a direction that all the passengers coming from the UK during the intervening period from December 21 to 23, 2020 will have to undergo RT-PCR tests at the airports of arrival.
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