Lens on international travelers landing in Karnataka, TAC for quarantine

Risk countries and regions identified; mask mandate should stay, suggest experts, but no fines
Image used for representational purpose. (File photo)
Image used for representational purpose. (File photo)

BENGALURU: In the backdrop of an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in eight countries, including China, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, United Kingdom, Italy and Germany, besides Hong Kong and Australia, and a few states in India, the Karnataka government has decided to strictly monitor travellers coming from the risk countries and regions.

The travellers will have to go through the thermal scanner, and those found symptomatic will be tested. If found positive, their samples will be genome-sequenced for the new variant XE. Meanwhile, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has suggested mandatory quarantine for a period of 7-10 days for passengers from these countries. However, the government is yet to release guidelines regarding this.

Health and Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar on Monday held an emergency review meeting with the TAC experts to look into precautions Karnataka needs to take to prevent an increase in Covid-19 cases in the state.

Sudhakar later said the TAC has suggested thermal screening, strict surveillance and mandatory quarantine for 7-10 days for passengers arriving from these eight countries. They will also have to report their health status over telephone to the health authorities.

It may be noted that states like Delhi, Haryana and Mizoram are also noticing an increase in the number of cases, and with researchers from IIT Kanpur warning of a fourth wave in June, this meeting was held to decide the future course of action in terms of preparedness, the minister said.

Health department officials said the TAC has suggested checking of interstate arrivals (those 18 years and above) for two-dose vaccination certificates at airports, and random checking at railway stations and bus stands. “TAC has recommended that those without vaccination certificate should provide RT-PCR samples, strictly follow CAB, self-monitor for symptoms and wait for the test results.

“The TAC has also recommended that health officials should compulsorily elicit history of international travel in the last fortnight, from ILI patients and those having gastrointestinal and other symptoms.” A senior health official said, “TAC has recommended issuing a circular to all hospitals, both government and private. Anyone found with such history shall be compulsorily subjected to RT-PCR and if positive, their samples will be sent for Whole Genome Sequencing.”

TAC experts stressed that masking up should continue, and removal of the mask mandate could lead to an uptick in the number of cases. Sudhakar said researchers from IIT-Kanpur had recently predicted a fourth wave may hit India by June, and with some states already seeing a slight increase, the TAC has reiterated wearing of masks, especially in closed spaces and during close conversations. Sudhakar said people will be advised to wear masks till the WHO official declares the pandemic is over, but fines will not be imposed.

While Karnataka claims it has vaccinated nearly 102 per cent of its eligible population, there are 32 lakh people who are due for their second vaccination dose. Stressing the need for taking the vaccine, Sudhakar said, “4.77 crore (98%) of people under the 60+ age category have taken the second vaccine dose, and only 49 per ccent of people have taken their precautionary dose. There is already declining immunity in this age group. I urge everyone to complete all doses.”

“Some have blamed the government for the Covid-19 wave and shortage of vaccines in the past. Now, there is adequate supply and we have requested people to take the vaccine. People should cooperate,” he added. In the 15-17 age group, 25,11,407 of 30,00,000 people (79%) had taken the first dose, and only 65% had taken the second dose. In the 12-14 age group, only 13,96,000 children of 20,00,000 (69%) had got the vaccine.

Price cap on vaccines must be followed
Sudhakar said there have been complaints of some hospitals overcharging for vaccines. A high-level meeting was held and a committee formed. Capped prices for CT scans, MRI etc. must be considered as new prices for future, and not just for Covid-19. Officers have been given instructions and labs told not to charge more than the capped price. If this rule is violated, the government can revoke the licence of the lab or hospital, he added.

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