The Centre on December 30 wrote to states asking them to follow the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) as laid down by the Health Ministry in the context of a new variant of coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom (UK) and now in India.
This comes amid reports that a total of 20 people who returned to India from the UK have tested positive for the new coronavirus variant so far.
On December 29, the government said six UK returnees have been found to be positive with the new UK variant genome.
Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal, in the letter to the states, said that samples of those passengers who are travelling from or transiting through airports in the UK and test positive shall be subjected to spike gene-based RT-PCR test.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"Passengers testing positive shall be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit coordinated by the respective State Health Authorities. Necessary action to send the samples National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune or any other appropriate lab for genome sequencing to be initiated at the facility level," the letter states.
"If the genomic sequencing indicates the presence of new variant of SRAS-CoV-2 then the patient shall be kept in the separate isolation unit and treated as per clinical protocol," it adds.
Moreover, the letter also states that those passengers who have arrived from the UK in India since the last one month shall be contacted by the District Surveillance Officer and monitored in the community.
"They shall be tested through RT-PCR testing. Those found positive shall be isolated, and their samples sequenced, and follow up action ensured..." the letter read.Moreover, all the community contacts of travellers who have tested positive should be kept in institutional quarantine, the Centre has said. They will be tested between the 5th and the 10th day as per guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research.