The Delhi government on Friday imposed restrictions on the arrivals from the United Kingdom, ordering isolation and quarantine for the passengers depending on the results of the self-paid RT-PCR tests for the coronavirus. The order came after a new strain, believed to more transmissible, was discovered in the UK.
“All those arriving from UK, who test positive will be isolated in an isolation facility,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, attaching a copy of the order. “Negative ones will be taken to a quarantine facility for 7 days followed by 7 days home quarantine.”
Strict surveillance will be kept on those who test negative following the completion of their mandatory quarantine, the order said. “This will be applicable on trial basis for a period of one week, i.e. 14.01.2020,” it said.
Government officials said the rule may be extended after reviewing the situation, reported the Hindustan Times. An unidentified senior government official said those found negative will have the option of paid institutional quarantine at Aloft Hotel in Aerocity. Those who want the government’s free institutional quarantine will be taken to Terapanth Bhawan in south Delhi’s Chhatarpur area, they said.
Meanwhile, the last-minute revision of the isolation and quarantine rules left those arriving from the UK to the national Capital in confusion, according to NDTV. The arrivals complained that the changes had taken them by surprise and left dozens looking to find solutions.
Many took to social media to register their complaint. Sanjiv Kapoor, an aviation veteran according to his Twitter profile, called the order “ridiculous”, saying that the government cannot tell people that the rules have changed after they land. Another passenger said the order was not mentioned in the Standard Operating Procedure issued by the Centre.
Another passenger said that he has an infant travelling with him. “There is no food for my daughter and they did not let me get my stroller,” he tweeted.
Following the chaos, the Delhi airport issued a clarification of the coronavirus testing and isolation rules for the arriving passengers. The airports clarified that the waiting time for passengers at Terminal 3 can take up to 10 hours. The passengers will bear the cost of testing as well as the waiting period, the airport said in a statement.
“Cost of the test and lounge at the Delhi Airport is Rs 3,400 per person and shall be incurred by the passenger,” the statement said. It added that all passengers will have to undergo mandatory quarantine – as per the Delhi government’s orders – first in an institutional facility and then at home.
The passengers would also need to upload negative RT-PCR test reports on the Air Suvidha portal before boarding the flight from the UK.
The total number of cases in the country of the mutant strain of the coronavirus has gone up to 82. Flights from the UK resumed on Thursday after India suspended the operations on December 22 to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The Centre had said it will conduct genome sequencing for passengers who test positive for the infection and show symptoms.
Genome sequencing can provide crucial information about how a virus is evolving or if new variants are emerging, how the virus is spreading from one place to another and whether cases in a given cluster are linked to one another.
The UK virus strain
The new UK virus variant, which scientists have named “VUI – 202012/01”, includes a genetic mutation in the “spike protein”, which could result in the strain spreading more easily. 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 strain which causes Covid-19, the first sample was taken in the county of Kent on September 20.
The variant carries 23 mutations in its genetic code – a relatively high number of changes compared with the version that originated in Wuhan, China, a year ago – and some of these are affecting its ability to spread. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that this was as much as 70% more transmissible than previous versions.
Earlier this week. Johnson announced a complete lockdown in England, fuelled by the new variant of the virus. The restrictions are due to last until at least mid-February. Johnson warned that the coming weeks would be the “hardest yet”.
Most scientists have said that the new variant has rapidly become the dominant strain in coronavirus cases in parts of southern England, and have linked it to an increase in hospitalisation rates. However, it is difficult to say exactly how much more transmissible the new variant may be as scientists have not yet done the kind of lab experiments that are required to assess it.
Cases of new strain has also been reported in the United States, Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.