The Union health ministry has asked the Ministry of Civil Aviation to ensure that 2% of all passengers arriving in international flights are undergoing random Covid-19 tests from 10 am, Saturday, December 24 onwards.

Airlines will be asked to identify the passengers for random Covid-19 test with a view to cover travellers from different countries. The post-arrival tests will be conducted at the destination airport itself. Passengers will be allowed to leave the airport after submission of samples.

While the Ministry of Civil Aviation will conduct the tests, the cost of such tests will be reimbursed by the health ministry on submission of bills to respective Airport Health Offices. The health ministry also sought the Civil Aviation Ministry's help to ensure that the testing is done at subsidised and uniform rates across all international airports.

The ministry's decision is part of the government's efforts to restrict the spread of Covid-19 cases after new cases continue to remain alarmingly high across the globe.

"The number of new cases of Covid-19 continue to be alarming high, with around 5.9 lakh daily new cases reported on average during the week ending December 19. This spike in 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," Rajesh Bhushan, Union health secretary, has stated in his letter to Rajiv Bansal, secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The letter also says that a copy of the positive report shall be shared with Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme by the concerned testing laboratories and in turn shared with concerned state governments and Union Territories for follow up action.

All positive samples will also be sent for genomic testing at the designated Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratory network.

The move comes a day after the health ministry wrote to all states and Union Territories (UTs) to step up vigil against Covid-19 cases and ensure that samples of all positive cases, on a daily basis, are sent to INSACOG network.

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