Southern States step up surveillance at airports

Mandatory check: One of the travellers returning to Chennai from the U.K. registering her details at the Chennai International Airport on Tuesday.  

The Kerala government has decided to intensify the surveillance and to strengthen SARS-CoV-2 testing facilities at airports and the seaport now that the new U.K. variant of the virus, known as B.1.1.7, which is believed to be highly transmissible, could be in circulation.

A high-level meeting convened by Health Minister K.K. Shylaja on Tuesday said that while more information on the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, which had gathered significant mutations — 23 in all — around the S spike protein, was still forthcoming, the State needed to be on a high state of alert.

This was particularly so, given the peculiarities of the State, which has a high proportion of international travellers passing through its four airports; a population with the highest proportion of elderly in the country and a significant percentage of population suffering from various co-morbidities.

The Minister expressed concern that the circulation of the U.K. variant, which has been described as 70% more contagious, could significantly increase the threat perception for the State which has been paying a lot of attention on imposing reverse quarantine and protecting its care home inmates.

In the new situation, more attention would be paid to improving the intensive care facilities and hospital infrastructure.

Special mechanism

The Telangana government has set up a special surveillance mechanism to tackle the spread of the more virulent virus sequenced in the U.K. A tipline 040-24651119 has been installed for travellers from the U.K., said Dr. G. Srinivasa Rao, Director of Public Health, in Hyderabad on Tuesday. “About 358 travellers have come from the U.K. and they are in the process of being identified and will be asked to quarantine and observe symptoms,” said Dr. Rao. All passengers from the U.K. were being tested with RT-PCR but all of them had tested negative.

A.P. for screening

In adherence to the letter issued by the Union Health Secretary, the Andhra Pradesh government has instructed that all travellers from the U.K. should be screened and undergo RT-PCR test.

Those who test negative will be allowed to go, but they will have to observe a 14-day mandatory home quarantine. These norms apply to the passengers travelling either directly from the U.K. or travelling through connecting flights or those who entered the country from any other means of transport.

“We have issued orders to Collectors and Superintendents of Police to trace the people arriving from abroad and take these preventive measures,” said Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare Bhaskar Katamneni.

In a review meeting on Tuesday, Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy called for utmost caution and asked the officials to do the needful to ensure that the new strain did not impact people.

Mammoth task

With 2,127 persons having arrived from the U.K. to Karnataka from December 1 till date, the State Health Department is faced with the mammoth task of monitoring their health status and tracing their contacts.

According to data from the Health Department, the samples of 233 passengers have been collected for tests so far. Of the 2,127, as many as 1,696 have landed in Bengaluru.

Meanwhile, sources said two persons — a 36-year-old mother and six-year-old daughter from Vasanthapura ward in Bommanahalli zone — who landed in the city on December 19 and did not have a COVID-19 negative report — have tested positive through Rapid Antigen Test. Their RT-PCR reports are awaited.

(With inputs from Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Bengaluru bureaus)

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 12:24:17 PM |

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