The government had last week extended the suspension of flights to and from the UK from 31 December till 7 January to prevent the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus found in the UK, considered to be much more infectious.
Days after announcing the partial resumption of flights from January 8, the government on Saturday issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for passengers who will be arriving from the United Kingdom amid the concerns over the new Covid-19 strain.
1) In a standard operating procedure (SOP) for UK returnees, the Union Health Ministry said that each passenger arriving from the UK would have to produce his or her COVID-19 negative report from a test done 72 hours prior to the journey on the online portal (www.newdelhiairport.in)
2) Airlines to ensure the availability of negative test report before allowing the passenger to board the flight.
3) In-flight announcements must also be made explaining the relevant information to the passengers. Relevant information in this regard shall be prominently displayed in arrival area and waiting area of the airports of arrival.
4) All the passengers arriving from UK in all international flights would be mandatorily subjected to self-paid RT-PCR tests on arrival at the Indian airports concerned (port of entry).
5) Adequate arrangements for passengers waiting for their RT-PCR test as well as test results duly following effective isolation may also be made at the airports in conjunction with the airport authorities.
6) If the genomic sequencing indicates the presence of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 then the patient will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit. The passenger will continue to remain in isolation till s/he tests negative.
The SOPs shall be valid till January 30 (23:59 hrs) or further orders whichever is earlier.
The new strain is believed to be 70% more infectious and such cases have spiralled within days in the UK.
This means that the new variant may increase the number of fresh cases alarmingly, which will lead to more people being quarantined or hospitalised.
The presence of the new UK variant of the virus has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.