Centre launches mega exercise to track arrivals from UK

New coronavirus strain: Centre launches mega exercise to track arrivals from UK

Passengers are guided to a quarantine centre on their arrival at the airport in Chennai on Tuesday. Credit: PTI

With the mutated Covid-19 strain triggering panic across the globe, the Centre on Tuesday set in motion a massive exercise to track down every individual arriving in India between November 25 and December 23 directly from the UK or on flights that transited through the UK to screen them for the new mutant.

Once these persons are traced, health officials would reach out to the travellers and their contacts who would be subjected to RT-PCR tests. Passengers testing positive will be isolated in an institutional facility while their samples would be sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, or an appropriate laboratory for genetic sequencing.

If the sequencing reveals the presence of the mutated variant of SARS-CoV-2, then the patient will remain in a separate isolation unit, while necessary treatment as per the protocol will be given, according to the Union Health Ministry’s latest standard operating procedure for the mutated strain, which is 70% more transmissible than the strains currently circulating in the world.

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The patient shall be tested again on the 14th day. In case the sample is found positive on the 14th day, further samples may be taken and he would stay in isolation until his two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart test negative.

“The SOP has been issued to the Bureau of Immigration, which will share the data on passengers with the state governments to track them down and trace their contacts,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said here on Tuesday.

In case the sequencing report is consistent with the current SARS-CoV-2 virus genome circulating in the country, the ongoing treatment protocol may be followed, the SOP stated.

NITI Ayog member Vinod Paul said the mutant strain was yet to be spotted in India and there was no reason to panic. Also, there is no evidence that vaccines would not work against such variants. “We need to be more vigilant. We can’t lose the game that we are winning,” said Paul.