The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday released the standard operating procedure for people coming to India from the United Kingdom, which includes mandatory RT-PCR or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction tests on arrival and separate isolation for those who test positive for the new variant of the coronavirus.

India has suspended flights from the UK till December 31 amid concerns that the new coronavirus strain, which emerged in that country, appeared to spread more easily. The ban will come into effect from Tuesday midnight.

The health ministry, citing the European Center for Disease Control in its document, said that the new variant of the coronavirus is estimated to be more transmissible and affected 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 ministry said that passengers are required to declare their travel history of the last 14 days and fill up the self declaration form.

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The health ministry added that the existing treatment protocol can be followed for people who test positive for the older strain of the coronavirus. 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 said.

It added: “In case the sample is found positive on 14th day, further sample may be taken until his two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart are tested negative.”

The government said that people who test negative for the coronavirus at the airport should remain in home quarantine.

Meanwhile, eight passengers who arrived in India on two different flights from London on Monday night have tested positive for the coronavirus, NDTV reported.

Nearly 30 countries have stopped flights to the UK after Britain’s health minister said a new coronavirus mutation spreading faster than other variants was “out of control”. The World Health Organization on Monday tried to allay the concerns and said the strain could be controlled using existing measures.

Mutant strain of coronavirus

UK’s public health officials said the new variant, which has been identified and is known as VUI, was first seen in mid-September in London and Kent. By December, it had become the “dominant variant” in London. Nearly a third of England’s population entered a lockdown, days before Christmas, as authorities warned that the new strain of the virus was going “out of control”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had on Saturday said the new strain “may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant” although there was no evidence it was more deadly or led to a more severe illness.