The Union Health ministry on Thursday asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to ensure random COVID-19 testing of 2% of passengers arriving on international flights from December 24 to minimise the risk of ingress of the new variant of coronavirus in the country.
Following random testing, if anybody is found COVID-19-positive, the sample should be sent for genomic testing at the designated INSACOG laboratory network, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote in a letter to his civil aviation ministry counterpart Rajiv Bansal.
After submitting samples for random testing, travellers will be allowed to leave the airport.
A copy of the positive report shall be shared with Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme at email@example.com by the concerned testing laboratory (besides sharing with the APHOS) to be in turn shared with the concerned state or union territory for further follow-up action, Bhushan said.
Bhushan in the letter stated that as a result of its sustained efforts and focus on the five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour, India has been able to effectively restrict the spread of COVID-19 transmission in the country so far.
However, globally the number of new cases of COVID-19 continue to remain alarmingly high, with around 5.9 lakh daily new cases reported on average during the week ending on December 19, 2022.
This spike in the trajectory of COVID-19 is particularly concerning with respect to Japan, United States of America, South Korea, Brazil, France and China where cases are increasing in a sustained manner, he stated.
“…it has been decided that ministry of civil aviation in coordination with airport operators and Air Port Health Offices (APHOS) shall ensure” two per cent of the total passengers in the flight shall undergo random post-arrival testing at the airport, Bhushan said in the letter.
Such travellers in each flight shall be identified by the concerned airlines (preferably from different countries), the letter said, adding that after submitting the sample passengers shall be allowed to leave the airport.
“This arrangement shall come into the practice with effect from 10:00 AM on Saturday, December 24, 2022,” the letter said.
Bhushan requested the ministry of civil aviation that testing may be done at a subsidised and uniform rate across all international airports.