Eye on Omicron: Testing at airport for arrivals from ‘at risk’ nations

With an eye fixed on experiences from internationally about Omicron, the brand new Covid “variant of concern”, the Central Government Sunday issued revised pointers for worldwide travellers arriving from Europe, together with the UK, and 11 different “at risk” nations, mandating testing on arrival, home quarantine for seven days on a detrimental end result, and a retest on the eighth day.

The Health Ministry directed all states to make sure that for worldwide travellers from nations aside from these labelled “at risk”, 5 per cent of a flight’s whole variety of passengers should endure random-testing on arrival at airports.

The Centre has additionally determined to assessment the date of resumption of scheduled worldwide business flights “as per the evolving global scenario”. On Friday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had introduced the resumption of those flights from December 15, after a 21-month hole.

The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on testing and surveillance of incoming worldwide passengers, particularly for these nations within the “at risk” class, can even be reviewed.

The Health Ministry has laid out 5 steps for worldwide travellers from nations “at risk”:

* They should submit a pattern for a Covid check on the level of arrival, and anticipate the end result earlier than leaving or taking a connecting flight.

* If they check detrimental, they should comply with home quarantine for seven days. This will probably be adopted by a retest on the eighth day of arrival. They should self-monitor their well being for the following seven days.

* If travellers check optimistic, their samples will probably be despatched for genomic testing on the INSACOG laboratory community.

* Those testing optimistic shall be despatched to a separate isolation facility and handled as per customary protocol, together with contact tracing.

* The contacts of optimistic instances will probably be stored underneath institutional or home quarantine and monitored strictly by the state authorities involved as per protocol.

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Apart from all nations in Europe, together with the UK, there are 11 different nations listed as “at-risk” by the Health Ministry: South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

On Sunday, the WHO stated in a press release that there is no such thing as a conclusive proof as of now to recommend that the newly-discovered variant was extra transmissible or may trigger extra extreme ailments in comparison with different variants.

The Centre’s new pointers, in the meantime, state that travellers from nations aside from these “at risk” will probably be allowed to depart the airport however ought to self-monitor their well being for 14 days’ post-arrival, excluding the 5 per cent to be random-tested.

If the travellers underneath home quarantine, or self-health monitoring, develop indicators and signs suggestive of Covid or check optimistic on re-testing, they should instantly self-isolate and report back to the closest well being facility, the rules state.

Separately, the Health Ministry Sunday directed all states to assessment previous travel particulars of passengers arriving on worldwide flights — and to strictly guarantee testing on travellers coming from “at-risk countries”, and ship the optimistic samples for genome sequencing promptly.

Several states, in the meantime, reacted with concern to the brand new variant.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to the Prime Minister, requesting him to cease worldwide flights from areas witnessing an increase in Covid instances.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan stated his authorities has determined to ramp up its genome sequencing efforts. The state will hint, check and, if want be, isolate worldwide passengers who’ve arrived up to now one month, Chouhan stated.

The key resolution to assessment the resumption of regular worldwide flights got here a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed officers to assessment the lifting of travel restrictions within the backdrop of rising considerations about Omicron.

“Overall, the global situation in the wake of the Omicron virus was comprehensively reviewed. Various preventive measures in place and to be further strengthened were discussed. Government to review Standard Operating Procedure on testing & surveillance of incoming international passengers, especially for those countries identified ‘at risk’ category,” the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated in a press release.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in the meantime, reminded the states that there’s “already a reporting mechanism for obtaining past travel details of passengers coming through international flights”.

“…this should be reviewed at your level and the protocol provided by this Ministry should be strictly ensured, including testing on disembarkation of international travelers coming from ‘At Risk’ countries and sending all positive samples for genome sequencing to INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium) labs in a prompt manner,” Bhushan instructed the states in a letter.

The Health Secretary urged states to “significantly increase sampling” for genome sequencing of optimistic instances. “INSACOG has been established to monitor the circulating variants in the country. It is important at this juncture that states must significantly increase sampling from the general population/ community for genome sequencing by sending these samples to INSACOG lab network as per the policy,” Bhushan wrote.

The Health Ministry requested the states for continued monitoring of hotspots “where a recent cluster of positive cases have emerged”.

“In all such hotspots, saturation testing and sending of positive samples quickly for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG labs must be ensured in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). States should keep a close check on the emerging trend of cases and the positivity in an area and quickly delineate hotspots for effective containment,” Bhushan’s letter acknowledged.

The Health Ministry has directed the states to implement a four-pronged approach: intensive containment; lively surveillance; elevated protection of vaccination; and enforcement of Covid acceptable behaviour “in a very proactive manner”.

Following the high-level assessment by Modi, an pressing assembly was chaired by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla. The assembly was attended by Dr V Okay Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog; Dr VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister; and senior officers from numerous ministries, together with Health and Civil Aviation.

MHA officers stated genomic surveillance for variants will probably be strengthened and intensified.

“Airport Health Officials (APHOs) and Port Health Officials (PHOs) to be sensitised for strict supervision of testing protocol at airports/ ports. Decision on effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passengers service, to be reviewed, as per the evolving global scenario. Closer watch on emerging pandemic situations within the country will be maintained,” the MHA stated.

(With ENS inputs)