New SOP for 7-day quarantine for int'l passengers

Coronavirus: New SOP for 7-day quarantine for international passengers

Trolleys being sanitized at Kempegowda International airport, Bengaluru.

For Vande Bharat returnees approaching the end of their 14-day mandatory quarantine period, new guidelines reducing the institutional quarantine period appeared to be Godsend. But, many have been waiting in vain to be discharged.

Several returnees told DH that for days, they had been kept guessing about whether or not they would be allowed to go home, as per new institutional quarantine SOPs for international travellers issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday.

According to new SOP, the international arrivals would be kept in quarantine for a minimum period of seven days. In a circular issued by the Pankaj Pandey, Commissioner, Department of Health and Family Welfare, dated same day (May 25), the state authorized a period of seven days institutional quarantine for Category II patients (those who are asymptomatic), followed by seven days of home quarantine.

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Pandey specified that the new order came on the heels of a Ministry of Home Affairs SOP advocating the reduction of the institutional quarantine period.

“Our order, which was drafted on May 25, advocates the discharging of people if they test negative after seven days of institutional quarantine, then they are eligible to do seven days of home quarantine. But there are caveats. All passengers will be tested between the fifth and seventh day of arrivals at hotels or hostels,” the Commissioner said. 

However, several returnees who reached out to DH said that they had been initially told by local nodal officers that the circular did not apply to them, and then subsequently that they should wait for the swab tests to be done.

“Our nodal officer informed us only on Wednesday morning that we were eligible to leave the hotel and return home as soon as the swab samples are taken. But the testing team has been overdue for over 24 hours,” a Malaysia returnee, who landed on May 19, said.

Bed occupancy 

Although officials attributed the change in the quarantine discharge policy to the MHA change in guidelines, bed occupancy could potentially be a factor.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Suresh Kumar said that as of Wednesday, there were a total of 798 passengers staying in five-star quarantine hotels, 1,096 passengers staying in three-star hotels and 431 in budget hotels, in Karnataka. “This amounts to a total of 2,328 people,” the minister said.

According to data from the Department of Health and Family Welfare, it has a total of 84 hotels in the city to serve as “covid care centres” (CCCs), with a total of
6,068 beds.

So far, according to Air India, a total of 881 people have returned to Bengaluru during Phase 1 of the Vande Bharat Flight.

In the ongoing Phase 2, about 2,166 people have returned to Bengaluru (up to May 26), according to the Ministry of Civil Aviation. A total of 3,800 are slotted for repatriation in this second phase, until the first week of June.

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