Six Covid cases detected in India on screening passengers of 11 flights from 'at-risk' countries

The Union Health Ministry said that the samples have been sent for genomic sequencing

The samples have been sent to INSACOG labs for 'whole genomic sequencing'. Credit: The New York Times Photo

Six Covid-19 cases were reported on Wednesday among 3,476 passengers in 11 flights from "at-risk" countries and the samples have been sent for genomic sequencing, the Health Ministry said amid concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus. The flights landed across the country, between midnight and 4 pm on Wednesday.

The Centre's revised guidelines for international travellers came into effect on Wednesday after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a "variant of concern".

"On the first day of operation of the guidelines for international travellers issued by the Centre as public health response measures for control and management of the newly reported variant of coronavirus, which has been designated as a 'variant of concern' by WHO, six passengers were reported to be Covid positive," the Union Health Ministry said.

"All 3,476 passengers were administered RT PCR Tests, wherein only six passengers were found Covid-19 positive," the ministry said, adding the samples of Covid-19 positive passengers have been sent to INSACOG labs for "whole genomic sequencing".

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The list of "at-risk" nations (updated on November 30) comprises countries from Europe, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. Travellers from these countries need to follow additional measures on arriving in India, including post-arrival testing.

The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday revised the guidelines for international arrivals, mandating that two per cent of the total passengers coming from countries that are not in the 'at-risk' category will also be tested for Covid-19 on a random basis. The travellers in each flight shall be identified by the airlines concerned (preferably from different countries). 

Arrivals from countries not designated "at-risk" have also been directed to self-monitor their health for 14 days after arrival.

Passengers originating or transiting from "at-risk" countries will have to undergo an RT-PCR test upon arrival and will be required to wait for the results at the airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight, according to the revised guidelines that came into effect from December 1.

If tested negative, they will have to be in-home quarantine for seven days and undergo another test on the eighth day of arrival in India. If again negative, they will self-monitor health for seven more days, according to the guidelines.

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However, if such travellers test positive for Covid-19, their samples should be sent for genomic testing to the INSACOG laboratory network. They shall be managed at a separate isolation facility and treated according to the standard protocol, including contact tracing. Contacts of such positive cases should also be kept in institutional quarantine or at home quarantine monitored strictly by the state government concerned, the guidelines stated.

The dos and don'ts shall be provided along with the ticket to the travellers by the airlines/agencies concerned. The airlines will allow boarding of only those passengers who have filled in a self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha portal and uploaded their negative RT-PCR test report, it stated. This test should be conducted within 72 hours before the journey.

Only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board a flight after thermal screening and all passengers shall be advised to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices.

The health ministry added that the Government of India continues to keep track of the evolving situation, and support states and Union Territories in the fight against the pandemic through a "whole of government" approach.

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