The British government has decided to ban the entry of tuberculosis (TB) patients from India who intend to stay in the UK for more than six months.
"Expanding its pre-migration TB screening programme to 80 countries having high incidence of TB, including India, the policy change of the British government is aimed at curbing the risk of spread of TB infection in the English mainland. As of now, the screening programme covers only 15 countries," said British high commissioner to India James Bevan, who was here on Wednesday.
India has the highest number of TB cases in the world.
Bevan stated that the move would have a limited effect as a majority of immigrants staying in the UK for more than six months were students, a group having relatively lesser prevalence of TB.
The new policy also mandates that once the applicant is found positive for TB, his or her case can be considered eligible for migration only after 'successful treatment' of the disease. A written statement to this effect was presented in the House of Commons by Damian Green, minister of state of immigration, on May 21.
The statement, citing the review conducted by the UK Border Agency with the support of the department of health and the Health Protection Agency, reads, "Where individuals are found to have active pulmonary TB, they must successfully undergo treatment before their application to come to the UK can be considered."
It further reads that much of the UK's TB burden was "attributable to international migration. Around three-quarters of TB cases in the UK occur in those born outside the UK"
As per the statement, the existing policy of screening immigrants arriving in the UK from high-incidence TB countries and intending to stay for more than six months at Heathrow and Gatwick airports with the use of X-rays is no longer "considered to make any real contribution in detection and management of the disease".
"X-rays alone cannot provide a definite diagnosis, which requires laboratory testing that cannot be performed in the airport environment. Current screening arrangements at our airports detect very few active cases. Changes in the travel industry over the past few decades now means that an increased number of people arrive at other UK ports where screening facilities are not available," reads the statement presented in the House of Commons.