NEW DELHI: The first day of universal screening saw 76,670 passengers flying in on 557 flights to India on Friday (March 6) being checked for coronavirus symptoms. Of these, 24 were referred for further checks, said an aviation official.
The Mahan Air flight flew to Delhi early Saturday morning with swab samples of 108 Indians and it returned to Tehran with about 200 Iranian passengers from here, said a senior aviation official. These swabs are being tested for corona and their results usually come in about 12 hours. Indians found corona-free will be allowed to fly on subsequent flights of Mahan Air and Iran Air that have been allowed by India to fly 2,000 Indians in Iran and as many Iranians in India.
While no Indian carrier flies to Iran, these two Iranian airlines fly to Delhi and Mumbai. Their flights were stopped by India on February 25 due to the spread of coronavirus epidemic in Iran. The Indians in Iran are mostly Shia pilgrims from Kargil.
“Among those referred for further checks were passengers who showed symptoms who flew in direct or indirect to India from Bangladesh, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Italy, UAE and Malaysia on Friday. Among asymptomatic passengers, a person coming from Italy via Abu Dhabi, one from Taiwan and three from Singapore were also referred,” said the official.
Meanwhile, airport operators are seeing which all among the 30 international airports can have separate immigration, custom counters and baggage belts from passengers from 12 hotspot corona nations — China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, France, Spain, UK and USA — as per health ministry directives. Delhi, which has India’s busiest airport, is doing a trial run on a few flights to work out the modalities for this.
Health ministry joint secretary Sudhir Kumar wrote to his counterpart in the finance ministry ( department of revenue) in charge of customs, V K Shrivastava, on Friday saying: “Minister of health and family welfare (Harsh Vardhan) and other senior officers visited (Delhi’s) IGI Airport in the late night on March 5 and reviewed the preparedness with respect to universal screening of international passengers for coronavirus. It was observed that there was mixing of international passengers from 12 more vulnerable countries and passengers from rest other countries at immigration counter, customs clearance counter, baggage belts, etc.”
“There is likelihood of spread of infection from passengers coming from these 12 more vulnerable countries (China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, France, Spain, UK and USA) to passengers coming from other countries.
Accordingly, it was directed that separate passage at the immigration counter, customs clearance counter and baggage belts should be ensured for international passengers coming from these 12 countries. All the concerned departments of government of India are informed to take urgent steps at all the international airports in this regard. Needful action to be also taken for required security check by home ministry para- military personnel in this regard,” Kumar’s letter says.
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