India stopped screening passengers for H1N1 — popularly known as swine flu — at its 22 international airports on Friday.
“H1N1 infection has now spread to the community in India. A committee, set up under the Director General of Health Services two weeks ago, recommended that screening be stopped at airports since infection was no longer coming from abroad,” Union health secretary Sujatha Rao told HT.
In India, H1N1 infected 19,162 and killed 604 people till December 3, the last day for which data was available.
On November 18, HT had reported that airport screening was a waste of manpower and resources as less than 2 per cent people diagnosed with H1N1 had a history of foreign travel.
Since screening started in India on April 30, 225 doctors and 172 paramedics screened 9,637,088 inbound passengers at 22 international airports.
On Thursday, 59,527 passengers were screened, but no one was sent for a confirmatory test after being found to have the flu-like symptoms of H1N1.
Only three of the 290 confirmed cases had a history of foreign travel. All the rest were infected within India.
The World Health Organisation does not recommend airport screening or any other travel restriction.
However, the move caused chaos at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Airlines and airport staff continued to urge passengers to fill the risk-assessment form and give it to the airport health authorities, who were missing from their posts before the immigration counters.