London, May 21 - Indian citizens besides those from 66 other "high risk" countries seeking to enter Britain for over six months will need to be screened for tuberculosis before they are granted a visa, the Home Office here announced today.
The costs of screening and subsequent treatment will be met by those people applying to come into the UK, the Home Office said, and added that the screening is specifically targeted at migrants from India and 66 other "high risk" countries.
The tuberculosis screening programme will be rolled out in the countries over the next 18 months from July.
Currently there are screening facilities at British airports, which will be removed under the programme.
The measure is expected to save 40 million pounds.
Recent figures indicate that there were over 9,000 new cases of tuberculosis in the UK in 2011, a five per cent increase on 2010.
"The programme is targeted at migrants after research showed non-UK born people accounted for three quarters of all new TB cases diagnosed 20 times higher than in the UK born population", the Home Office said.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "Tuberculosis is currently at its highest level in the UK for 30 years.
"Pre-entry screening, followed by treatment where necessary, will help to prevent the risk of TB in the UK and will also save lives", he said.
The Minister added, "Removing screening facilities at airports will save the taxpayer 25 million pounds over ten years and further National Health Service (NHS) savings will be made by preventing the importation and spread of TB in the UK".
The UK Border Agency will build on existing pre-screening undertaken by international partners including the USA, Canada and Australia, the Home Office said.
Recent research at the Imperial College London suggests that current checks at British airports were failing to detect the latent form of tuberculosis in immigrants arriving from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Professor Ajit Lalvani, Director of the Tuberculosis Research Unit at Imperial College, who led the study, said: "Our findings indicate that immigrants arriving in the UK from countries with high burdens of TB have a high prevalence of latent tuberculosis infection, which is strongly associated with tuberculosis incidence in their country of origin".
He added: "UK national guidance for which groups to screen has hitherto missed most immigrants with latent infection.
"We've shown that by changing the threshold for screening, and including immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, we could pick up 92 per cent of imported latent TB".
The investigators found that a fifth of recent immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and almost 30 per cent from Sub-Saharan Africa are carriers of latent TB and that national screening policy, which does not include immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, has been missing 70 per cent of imported latent TB. PTI