The Centre on Saturday issued new guidelines for testing and surveillance of passengers arriving from the United Kingdom. New Delhi had on Friday said that flight services between India and the UK would resume from January 8, after operations were suspended on December 21.
In the statement, the Ministry of Family and Health Affairs said that the passengers arriving between January 8 and 30 would be subjected to self-paid RT-PCR tests and have to declare their travel history of the past 14 days.
“Adequate arrangements for passengers waiting for their RT-PCR test as well as test results duly following effective isolation may be made at the airports in the conjunction with the airport authorities,” the statement said.
All arrivals from the UK will be quarantined for 14 days if their RT-PCR tests are found negative. Those found positive in the test would be quarantined in separate centres.
The ministry said that patients with the new strain of the coronavirus will be kept in an isolation facility till their sample tests negative. All their contacts, including at the community level, would be isolated in institutional quarantine centres, the ministry added.
“The resumption of flights is to be done in a calibrated manner by initially allowing flight movement to/from UK to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai only,” it said.
Moreover, the passengers are required to submit a self-declaration form on an online portal at least 72 hours before arrival. They would also have to carry a negative RT-PCR test conducted 72 hours before undertaking the journey.
Air traffic controller Directorate General of Civil Aviation will strictly ensure “eligible airlines” do not allow any passengers to travel from UK to India through a transit airport so there is “no omissions in monitoring of those passengers.”
On December 21, India had suspended flight operations from the UK in a bid to contain a new strain of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain. Scientists say the new strain is 70% more transmissible. So far, 29 people in India have tested positive for the new strain of the coronavirus.
About the new strain
The new variant of the infection has also been reported in Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.
The new UK virus variant, which scientists have named “VUI – 202012/01”, includes a genetic mutation in the “spike” protein, which could result in coronavirus spreading more easily between people. It was first announced by Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, on December 14, and was subsequently confirmed by Public Health England and the UK’s Covid-19 sequencing consortium. Screening back through databases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, the first sample was taken in the county of Kent on September 20.
The variant carries 14 defining mutations including seven in the spike protein, which mediates entry of the virus into human cells. This is a relatively large number of changes compared to the many variants in circulation globally. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that this was as much as 70% more transmissible than previous versions. But there is currently no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause severe coronavirus infections or that it would render vaccines less effective.