Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Thursday held a meeting with airport and port health officers as well as other authorities over screening and surveillance at all points of entries amid concerns over the new coronavirus variant ‘Omicron’, official sources said.
The health ministry has been advising states and Union territories to keep a strict vigil and undertake surveillance of international passengers coming to the country through various airports.
Testing of samples of international travellers coming from ‘at risk’ countries on the first day and of specified category of passengers on the eighth day needs to be scrupulously done, it had stressed.
International passengers from at-risk countries are being advised to wait at airports till the report of the RT-PCR test is available.
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States/UTs have been asked to send all positive samples for genome sequencing to INSACOG labs (mapped with states) promptly and that the states should undertake contact tracing of positive individuals and follow up for 14 days.
The new potentially more contagious B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 24, and has been designated as a ”Variant of Concern” by the global body, which named it “Omicron”.
A “variant of concern” is the WHO’s top category of worrying COVID-19 variants.
The health ministry had on Tuesday revised the guidelines for international arrivals which mandate that 2 per cent of the total flight passengers coming from countries which are not in the ‘at risk category’ will also be tested on random basis at the airports for COVID-19.
Apart from that, travellers from countries, excluding those countries at risk, will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days post arrival.
Passengers originating or transiting from at-risk countries will have to undergo RT-PCR testing post arrival and will be required to wait for the results at the arrival airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight, according to the revised guidelines which came in effect from December 1.
If tested negative, they will follow home quarantine for seven days and will undergo re-test on the 8th day of arrival in India, and if again negative, further self-monitor their health for next seven days, according to the Guidelines for International Arrivals (in supersession of all guidelines issued on the subject on and after November 28, 2021).
However, if such travellers are tested positive, their samples should be sent for genomic testing at INSACOG laboratory network.
They shall be managed at separate isolation facility and treated as per laid down standard protocol, including contact tracing, and the contacts of such positive case should be kept under institutional quarantine or at home quarantine monitored strictly by the concerned State Government as per laid down protocol.
List of countries from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India, including post-arrival testing are those in Europe, including The United Kingdom, besides South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.
Besides, the airlines will allow boarding by only those passengers who have filled in their self declaration forms on the Air Suvidha portal and uploaded the negative RT-PCR test report.
This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.
International travellers arriving through seaports/land ports will also have to undergo the same protocol as above, except that facility for online registration is not available for such passengers currently, the guidelines added.