Ministry of Health issues SOP for state governments & airports in view of New UK COVID-19 Strain

Ministry of Health issues SOP for state governments & airports in view of New UK COVID-19 Strain
Following the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, which the European country has said is highly infectious and was "out of control", India on Tuesday released a set of fresh guidelines to deal with the situation.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in view of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 virus.

"This variant is estimated by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) to be more transmissible and affecting the younger population. This variant is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations.

One of the most significant is an N501Y mutation in the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor. Changes in this part of the spike protein may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people," the ministry warned in a document released today.

The ministry said SOPs are now required to be followed at all entry points into the country and within in the community with regard to air passengers who have travelled from or transited through the UK in the past four weeks starting from November 25 to December 23.

Here are some key points of the SOPs issued by the Health Ministry:
  • All international travellers who have travelled from or transited through the UK are required to declare travel history of past 14 days and fill up Self-Declaration Form to be screened at airports for COVID-19 using RT-PCR test.
  • All passengers who have come from the UK between December 21 and 23 will have to undergo RT-PCR test.
  • In case the test result is positive, it has been recommended that the person undergo spike gene-based RT-PCR test as well.
  • Further, passengers testing positive will be sent to institutional isolation facility by respective state authorities.
  • If they are detected to be carrying the current COVID-19 strain, they will be administered the ongoing treatment protocol, including home isolation or treatment at facility level depending on the severity of the disease.
  • If the person is found to be carrying the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, then he/she will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit.
  • Those testing negative in RT-PCR tests conducted at airports would be advised to stay under home quarantine.
  • The ministry stated with regard to SOPs to be followed by state governments: "All the contacts (without any exception) of those travellers who arrived at various airports on 21st-23rd December 2020 and tested positive would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centres and would be tested as per ICMR guidelines."
  • Further, those international travellers from the UK who have arrived in India from November 25 to December 8 (1st and 2nd week from November 25) will be contacted by District Surveillance Officers and advised to self-monitor their health.

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