In the wake of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus detected in the United Kingdom, Ministry of Health on Wednesday issued the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) at the point of entry and in the community for all international passengers who have travelled from or transited through the country in the past four weeks (from November 25 to December 23).
A press release by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stated the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus (under investigation) has been reported by the Government of United Kingdom (UK) to World Health Organization (WHO). “This variant is estimated by European Centre for Disease Control to be more transmissible and affecting 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 flights from the UK are suspended temporarily till December 31 or till further orders. All the passengers travelling from or transiting through airports in the UK and disembarking in India would be subjected to RT-PCR test on arrival. In the case of a positive sample, the SOP recommended spike gene-based RT-PCR test. Passengers testing positive will be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit, coordinated by the respective state health authorities.
Necessary action to send the samples to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, or any other appropriate lab for genomic sequencing will be initiated at the facility level. If the genomic sequencing indicates the presence of the new variant of SARS-CoV 2 then the patient will be kept in the separate isolation unit and treated as per the clinical protocol.
Those who are found negative on testing at the airport would be advised quarantine at home. Prior to check-in, the traveller will be explained about this SOP and in-flight announcements would also be made.
Those international travellers from the UK who arrived in India in the last one month will be contacted by district surveillance officers and monitored in the community.
State governments/Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme will ensure that all the contacts of those who travelled from or transited through the UK in the last four weeks be traced and monitored. They will also be tested as per the protocol and contacts of the positive cases would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate centres for effective isolation and monitoring.