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Isolate travellers who test Covid-positive, their contacts: Health ministry

MoHFW has directed that details of the destination address should be specified on the Air Suvidha portal

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Health Ministry | Coronavirus Vaccine

Sohini Das Shine Jacob & Ruchika Chitravanshi  |  Mumbai/Chennai/Delhi 

A health worker testing for Covid-19 collects the swab sample of a man at a railway station in Ranchi on November 27, 2021. (PTI Photo)
A health worker testing for Covid-19 collects the swab sample of a traveller (Photo: PTI)

Leaving no stones unturned, the Union on Monday asked states to not only isolate individual travellers who test Covid-19 positive but also quarantine their contacts. Even those passengers who have tested negative for Covid infection, must be followed up by the state surveillance units on specific intervals if found symptomatic.

These stringent guidelines came in from the after reports suggested that a 32-year-old man who had returned to his Dombivli home (on the outskirts of Mumbai) from Cape Town via Dubai and Delhi had tested Covid-positive. He was picked up from his Mumbai home on Sunday by civic body officials who are conducting an extensive drive to track and trace people who returned from the Omicron-detected nations between November 14 and 26.

The man’s samples were sent to Kasturba Hospital’s genome sequencing laboratory on Monday. If found positive for the Omicron variant, it could well be India’s first case infected with the new variant spreading in African countries.

Meanwhile, in Karnataka, two South African citizens who arrived in Bengaluru tested positive for Covid-19. What's causing concern is the slight variation in one of the cases compared to the delta variant. The authorities have reportedly contacted the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for assistance.

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In a letter to state health secretaries and chief secretaries, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan issued strict guidelines for testing and tracking of international passengers. “The individuals turning positive must be managed at separate isolation facilities as per guidelines, and the results sent expeditiously for whole genome sequencing,” the said. According to latest guidelines, even the contacts of positive travellers must be kept under institutional or home quarantine and must be strictly monitored by the states.

“The untested passengers and those turning RT-PCR negative must be followed up by the State Surveillance Units on Day 2 and Day 5, and their RT-PCR test must be conducted, if found symptomatic,” Bhushan’s letter said.

States have also been asked to pro-actively liaise with other states and UTs to ensure effective follow-up of international traveller movement. As such all passengers from “at risk” countries (countries in Europe including the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel) are mandated to be subjected to RT-PCR testing upon arrival.

Random RT-PCR testing must also be done for passengers from all other countries.

As a measure to track passengers, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has directed that details of the destination address should be specified on the Air Suvidha portal where passengers will fill a self-declaration form with details of their travel history in the last 14 days.

For a shot in the arm


Besides following central guidelines, some states have decided to enhance their focus now to vaccinate everyone who is left out. Experts have noted that vaccinated individuals will stand a better chance to fight the new variant.

Tamil Nadu is working to directly reach out to around 9 million people who have not taken any dose and also the 8.3 million who are eligible for the second dose but have not yet taken it. “We are trying to reach out to all the remaining 9-odd million people eligible for the first dose. However, 100 per cent RT-PCR is being done and genomic sequencing of positive cases is also being done," Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said. The government has asked district collectors to be ready with mitigation plans in the event of a potential surge in cases, besides accelerating vaccine coverage. Radhakrishnan said in a letter to officials that at present there is no proof of importation or transmission in the state.

Kerala, meanwhile, has increased the number of quarantine days to 14 instead of the current seven for people coming from high-risk countries. Even if they test negative, they will be directed to go for compulsory home quarantine. And, they will have to complete the 14-day quarantine even if their tests are negative after seven days. At least 5 per cent of people from other countries will also be subjected to random testing.

In Karnataka, the government has also directed officials to strictly monitor bordering districts like Kerala and Maharashtra in addition to RT-PCR tests for people coming from South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.

In the national capital, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority held a meeting to discuss the new Omicron variant. Delhi has put on alert its “extra bed” facilities.

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First Published: Tue, November 30 2021. 01:12 IST
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