NEW DELHI, Dec 22 - At least 20 passengers from the UK tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday as the government issued a stringent set of SOPs mandating RT-PCR tests at airports for each traveller from the country and isolation in a separate unit of an institutional facility for positive cases in view of the new coronavirus strain.
There is no need to panic but there is cause to be more vigilant, said NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul.
�We are yet to spot such a virus in our country We will be safe if we suppress the genomic sequence,� Paul said at a press conference while stressing that the mutated SARS-CoV-2 strain detected in the UK has no impact on the potential of emerging vaccines.
Ahead of the December 23-31 suspension of flights to and from the UK that comes into effect at 11.59 pm on Tuesday as India joins about 40 others in sealing off the country, passengers were under close watch and hundreds were tested at various airports.
The process took many hours, resulting in scenes of chaos and confusion at several airports, including Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Of the 20 that tested positive, six were on a flight that landed in Delhi at 11.30 pm on Monday, two on a flight that came into Kolkata on Sunday night, four that arrived in Ahmedabad on Tuesday and eight, including a crew member, in Amritsar who also reached today. All were direct Air India flights from London.
According to the government�s standard operating procedures (SOPs) for passengers from the UK issued on Tuesday, those testing positive will be isolated in a separate unit of an institutional facility.
The positive samples were sent to the National Centre for Disease Control for research on the new strain using next gen sequencing technology which will help understand the implications on ongoing vaccine efficacy, Agarwal told PTI.