The government, on Thursday, February 18, issued new guidelines for the international travellers after two new strains of COVID-19 (South African and the Brazilian strains) were detected in the country.
India has detected the presence of three variants of the SARS-CoV-2 (UK, South Africa, Brazil) virus which have an increased transmission according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will come into effect from February 22.
The UK variant has been detected in 86 countries, the second variant which originated in South Africa, has been detected in 44 countries, and the recent variant has been found in 15 countries respectively, India being one of them.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), in discussions with the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), evaluated the situation and issued guidelines to minimise the spread of mutant strains of SARS-CoV-2.
Planning For Travel
- All international travellers coming/transiting on flights originating from UK., Europe, and the Middle East must submit a self-declaration form (SDF) for COVID-19 on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel.
- Passengers need to upload a COVID-19 RT-PCR negative test report. The test must be conducted within 72 hours before taking the flight.
- The exception of boarding will be passengers travelling because of any emergency case in the family.
- Airlines to allow boarding only those passengers who have filled in the Self Declaration Form on the Air Suvidha portal and uploaded the negative RT-PCR test report.
- Only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board the flight.
- Passengers are advised to download the Arogya Setu app on their mobile devices.
- Suitable precautionary measures such as environmental sanitation and disinfection must be ensured at the airports.
- Travellers are required to follow social distancing norms during their travel.
- Suitable announcements about COVID-19, including preventive measures, will be made at airports, in flights and during transit.
- Passengers must wear masks, follow environmental, respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene etc.
- Deboarding should be done, ensuring physical distancing.
- Thermal screening would be carried out by the health officials present at the airport. The passengers are required to show the self-declaration form filled online shown to the officials.
- Any person found to be symptomatic during screening will immediately be isolated and taken to a medical facility as per health protocol.
- Passengers who have uploaded RT-PCR negative certificates on Air Suvidha portal will be allowed to leave the airport or take transit flights. Passengers are also required to self-monitor their health for 14 days.
- They will also be provided with the list of the National and State level surveillance officers and the respective call centre numbers in case they develop symptoms at any time during the quarantine, self-monitoring of their health.
Strain From UK
Last year, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared stringent lockdown after a new variant of coronavirus was found in Britain.
A study by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed the UK variant is 56 per cent more transmissible than other strains. However, there is no clear evidence so far.
The Indian Council of Medical Research( ICMR) reported 187 cases of the U.K. strain in India.
Strain From South Africa
South Africa's health department reported a mutation of the COVID-19 virus in December last year. The department stated that the new genetic mutation might be responsible for the country's recent spike in infections.
India has four cases of the South African variant of coronavirus have been detected in the country, ICMR confirmed on Tuesday.
Strain From Brazil
According to ICMR, one person tested positive for the Brazilian variant in the first week of February.
The Centre has suspended international scheduled flights till February 28. For now, overseas flights to and from India are operated as per air bubble agreements with various countries.