Flights to resume, Karnataka govt plans SOPs to contain UK strain | Bengaluru News – Times of India
Swab samples being collected from passengers arriving on trains at KSR Bengaluru City station on Tuesday
BENGALURU: With flights set to resume between India and UK from January 8, the state government is mulling ramping up Covid testing at Kempegowda International Airport to contain the spread of the new virus variant.
Setting up a rapid RT-PCR testing lab, stationing a mobile swab collection unit and using the new terminal building to collect swab samples, besides helpdesks to assist passengers, are some of the measures discussed. The Centre had issued SOPs to be followed in handling flyers from UK on January 1, but the state government is yet to issue SOPs.
Sources in the health and family welfare department say if UK passengers test negative on arrival, they will be sent to 14-day home quarantine. But if a passenger tests positive, s/he must be admitted to a hospital and will have to be isolated till a genomic sequencing report is out. If the report shows s/he is infected with the new strain, SOP mandates that all his/her primary, high risk contacts must be traced and put in institutional quarantine for seven days.
Contacts will be tested on Day 0 (when the passenger is found to be infected) and Day
7. Contacts include co-passengers seated in the same row of seats as the patient in the aircraft, those in the immediate three rows in the front and behind and cabin crew. After the stint in institutional quarantine, they will be sent to home quarantine for seven days, followed by 14 days of self-monitoring.
If a passenger is infected but not by the new variant, then the patient can stay in home isolation or continue to remain in hospital depending on the severity of symptoms.
However, experts are derisive of on-arrival tests. “Average incubation period for the virus is 3-14 days,” said Dr Giridhara R Babu, epidemiologist. “If the person is not found positive for Covid 72 hours prior to travel, what’s the logic in expecting the person to be infected soon after his/her arrival? It does not make sense.”
Testing on arrival may be misleading, said another expert. “If the viral load is low, especially in asymptomatic cases, there are chances that the RT-PCR result will return a false negative. Hence the day of the test is crucial,” the expert said.
Experts have also raised concerns over testing at the airport itself as it could lead to super-spreading events. “Safety measures would be taken during the flight, but once they disembark, it may become difficult to prevent the spread if everyone has to be tested at the airport itself,” experts said.
The technical advisory committee has advised the state to prioritise testing for compelling reasons: First test pregnant women, children below the age of 10 years, passengers suffering from serious illness or those arriving to attend a death in the family.
Those flying in from UK also have to sign a declaration agreeing to adhere to SOPs. This includes, following strict quarantine, isolation measures as prescribed by the government and undergoing tests at their own cost. This is also applicable to high risk contacts (passengers who travelled with a Covid positive person). Contacts will also have to foot the bill for the 7-day institutional quarantine.