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UK strain: Covid test mandatory for Kashmiris who returned from Europe in last two weeks

File photo (KM/Umar Ganie)

Srinagar: In the wake of the emergence of a new fast-moving variant of SARS-CoV-2 as detected in the United Kingdom and several European countries, the Srinagar administration in line with the advisory issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MHFW) GoI has initiated preventive measures in efforts to prevent its spread in the district.

District Magistrate Srinagar Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary who is also the Chairman District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) Srinagar has ordered that all those who have travel history to the UK or any European country in the past two weeks – since December 9 – will have to undergo RT-PCR testing for COVID-19.

 

The order directs for quick establishment of separate quarantine facilities where such travellers and their contacts will be shifted for undergoing the prescribed quarantine period if testing positive — the aim being to prevent spread of the mutated strain.

Additional Deputy Commissioner Masarat Hashim who is the Nodal Officer COVID-19 Mitigation Operations Srinagar informed that two separate institutional quarantine facilities have been set up for travellers from the said countries having arrived in Srinagar since December 9.

He informed that the new quarantine facilities are being set up at Lawaypora and Barbarshah areas adding that while the facility at Lawaypora will be unpaid the facility at Barbarshah will be paid.

Hashim also informed that even those testing negative will have to isolate themselves at home for a period of two weeks adding that a designated health team will be in constant contact with them to monitor their condition.

To ensure all required measures are taken in the wake of this new development surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of medical experts from the Department of Social & Preventive Medicine will be advising the DDMA.

These preventive measures being put in place in Srinagar follow the SOP instructions of the MHFW GoI issued Tuesday after several European countries detected the mutated strain of coronavirus first reported from the UK.

Samples collected from travellers will be sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune to detect the new strain which is said to be faster-spreading and more transmissible. Those testing positive for the mutated strain and their contacts will be isolated in separate institutional quarantine facilities to prevent spread.

It is notable that this new strain is thought to be the driving force behind a rapid spike in new COVID-19 infections in London and other parts of England as reported.

Meanwhile the District Magistrate has urged all residents of Srinagar and all those visiting the district for work or other purposes to keep wearing face masks and observing social distancing in order to be safe and prevent spreading of the virus.

Dr Shahid said that guidelines surrounding these measures are still in force and that there has to be strict adherence to them as long as there is COVID-19 pandemic.