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No plan for mandatory Covid testing at airports now, say govt sources

Source: PTI
December 21, 2023 17:05 IST
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There is no plan so far to make RT-PCR testing for COVID-19 mandatory at airports for travellers, Union health ministry sources said on Thursday, amid an uptick in coronavirus infections in India.

IMAGE: A healthcare worker inoculates a beneficiary with a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital, in Patna, April 17, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Even though the number of cases is rising and the JN.1 sub-variant has been detected in the country, there is no cause of immediate concern as 92 per cent of those infected are opting for home-based treatment, indicating mild illness, they said.


There is also no increase in hospitalisation rates and COVID-19 is an incidental finding in people hospitalised due to other medical conditions.

In the last two weeks, 22 people have died due to COVID-19 in the country.

India on Thursday recorded 594 fresh COVID-19 infections while the number of active cases increased to 2,669 from 2,311 the previous day, according to Union health ministry data.

The death toll has climbed to 5,33,327 with six more people -- three from Kerala, two from Karnataka and one from Punjab -- succumbing to the viral disease, the data updated at 8 am stated.

As many as 21 cases of the JN.1 variant had been detected across the country till Wednesday.

NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul on Wednesday said that the scientific community in India is closely investigating the new variant as he emphasised the need for states to ramp up testing and strengthen surveillance systems.

"There is no plan so far to make RT-PCR testing for COVID-19 mandatory at airports," a source said.

In July, India had issued revised guidelines, dropping the requirement for RT-PCR based testing of a random 2 per cent of travellers entering India.

In view of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and the detection of the first case of the JN.1 variant in the country, the Centre has urged states and union territories to maintain constant vigil.

In a letter to states and union territories, Union health secretary Sudhansh Pant on Monday underlined the critical COVID-19 control and management strategies considering the upcoming festive season and advised them to put in place requisite public health measures to minimise the risk of increase in transmission of the disease.

States have been urged to ensure effective compliance with the detailed operational guidelines for revised surveillance strategy for COVID-19 shared by the Union ministry of health and family welfare.

They have asked to monitor and report district-wise cases of influenza-like illness and severe Acute respiratory illness in all health facilities regularly for early detection of rising trend of cases.

It is not currently known whether the JN.1 infection produces symptoms different from other variants, the ministry had said.

In general, symptoms of COVID-19 tend to be similar across variants.

There is also no indication of increased severity from JN.1

At this time, there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health compared to other currently circulating variants, according to the ministry.

The existing treatment line for COVID-19 is expected to be effective against JN.1 infection and updated vaccines are expected to increase protection against the variant, the ministry had said.

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