A day after allowing limited resumption of air traffic from the United Kingdom, where a more virulent coronavirus strain has led to record rise in daily numbers, the Health Ministry issued guidelines for stricter surveillance and testing of passengers from the country.
Chief among the new rules are compulsory self-paid testing on arrival, 14-day home quarantine for passengers with negative test result instead of the earlier seven, "adequate arrangement for passengers awaiting results" at airport, state government help desks and "institutional quarantine facility" for those who test positive.
New rules state that patients with new strain will be kept in the isolation facility till their sample tests negative. All their contacts, including at community level, would also be isolated in institutional quarantine centres, rules add.
All health precautions will be taken. SOPs have been issued by @MoHFW_INDIA. Passengers will be tested both before boarding & upon arrival in India. Details are attached herewith. These are valid till 30 Jan 2021.@MoCA_GoI@DGCAIndiapic.twitter.com/Sru7ooPWSC— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) January 2, 2021
As per the new rules, air traffic controller Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will strictly ensure "eligible airlines" do not allow any passengers to travel from UK to India through a transit airport so there is "no omissions in monitoring of those passengers".
"The resumption of flights is to be done in a calibrated manner by initially allowing flight movement to/from UK to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai only," a Health Ministry statement said.
To avoid crowding during testing, flights will also be spaced adequately.
Additionally, passengers will have to declare their 14-day travel history, declare their 72-hour Covid infection status, and carry a negative RT-PCR test, the rules state.
As per an earlier order, swab samples of all those who test positive will be sent to INSACOG - a consortium of 10 labs - for genome sequencing that'll determine if the COVID-19 infection is because of the new strain or the old one.
The Health Ministry's standard operating procedure announced Saturday will be valid till January 30.
The set of rules have been announced to ensure the UK coronavirus mutation does not spread in India, where daily Covid cases have slid to the lowest since July amid unprecedented infection spike in US and European nations.
After UK attributed its recent case rise to the "70 per cent more viral strain affecting younger population", India suspended all flights from the country starting December 23. The decision was revised on Friday with the centre allowing airlines to resume operations on the UK-India route from January 8.
Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has clarified that while flights from India to UK will start January 6, services from that country to here would resume January 8 onwards.
Between December 22 and 29, a total of 23 countries, including UK, officially reported the new variant with 151 cases. Till January 2, India had 29 cases of the UK Covid strain.
To keep a check on local mutation of Sars-CoV-2, India has also decided to do genome sequencing of 5 per cent of all daily samples.