No more institutional quarantine for UK returnees to Delhi
Passengers flying in to Delhi from the United Kingdom (UK) will no longer have to complete a mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19 on arrival, an order issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) – the nodal body that decides on implementation of Covid-19 guidelines in the Capital — said.
The seven-day institutional quarantine rule for UK fliers, even if they tested negative for Covid-19 on arrival, was introduced on January 8, when the Central government resumed flight operations between India and the UK after a temporary suspension since December 22 in the light of a new strain of Covid-19 which had emerged there.
The new DDMA order, which was issued on Friday, cites “low positivity rate” among UK returnees as the reason for the relaxation. Fliers, however, will have to continue adhering to a seven-day home quarantine rule, government officials said.
“As a matter of abundant precaution in view of the increased transmissibility of the new variant, DDMA orders dated January 8 and (another on) January 12 mandated compulsory institutional quarantine for a period of seven days, followed by seven days of home quarantine for those travellers who are found negative in RT-PCR test at airport,” said the DDMA order, which HT has seen.
The order was signed by Delhi’s chief secretary Vijay Dev, who also heads the executive committee of the DDMA. The DDMA is chaired by Delhi’s lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal. Its vice-chairperson is chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The order further said, “The situation has now been reviewed and considering the low positivity rate of UK returnees it has been decided that the aforesaid additional measure of compulsory institutional quarantine of travellers tested negative may not be required furthermore… Strict surveillance (has) to be kept on persons who test negative in the airport and (are) kept in home quarantine.”
Two senior DDMA officials, who did not wish to be identified, however, clarified that the seven-day home quarantine rule for those who tested negative on arrival would still continue and they will be monitored by district surveillance teams.
Travellers who test Covid-19 positive on arriving from the UK are isolated in special wards set up at the government’s Lok Nayak hospital and four other private hospitals. Their contacts are further traced and isolated in similar wards on testing positive for Covid-19. Their swab samples (both UK returnees and their contacts who test positive) are sent for further examination to determine the strain of the virus with which they were infected.
In Delhi, so far 13 Covid-19 patients were found infected with the UK strain. All of them had returned from the UK and none of them were cases of local transmission, said a senior official in the government’s health department.
“Surveillance of people who have returned from the UK should be scaled up,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the epidemiology and communicable diseases department in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). He further said, “The UK variant is spreading fast across several countries. It is replacing the old variant. Initially, it was found to be more transmissible. Now, several research groups based in the UK have said that it is likely to cause more deaths too. Fortunately, vaccines have been found to be effective against it. But we cannot let our guards down.”