The Screening of passengers arriving from swine-flu hit countries started after 9 p.m. at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Wednesday.
Airport developer Delhi International Airport Ltd. (DIAL) has set up eight special counters near immigration counters where passengers arriving from flu-affected countries like US, Mexico and Canada would be checked.
However, there are still not enough doctors to man these counters. A total of 32 doctors and eight nurses are to be deployed by the Ministry of Health.
“The screening has started but is being done selectively as we have only eight doctors right now. The full fledged screening should start by Wednesday night or Thursday morning,” an official of the Airport Health Office (APHO) said.
“No one stopped us for any special check or screening and there no advisories on the risks of the flu were given,” Rohitanshu Kiran, who arrived on Air India’s New York-Delhi flight on Wednesday evening, said.
“This was like any other flight. There were no checks and I heard no announcements or advisories announced at the airport or in the flight,” said Nathan Fisher, a New York-resident on the Air India New York-Delhi flight.
“Apart from the counters, we have deployed ambulances and we have a state-of-the-art yellow fever hospital at the airport,” a DIAL spokesman said.
Immigration officials will track passengers who have arrived from affected countries in the past 10 days. “Not only passengers coming directly from flu affected countries but anyone who has stayed there recently and is now arriving from some other country would be screened too,” a senior airport official, who didn’t wished to be named, said.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has directed all international airports across India to facilitate the enhanced surveillance and screening of passengers arriving from affected countries.
“The DGCA has been instructed to make urgent arrangements for all pilots to provide a General Declaration on health to the Airport Health Organisations wherein any illness other than airsickness or the effects of accidents in the aircraft is declared,” a Ministry spokeswoman said.
“Crew members are also to be sensitised to be vigilant… and to report to the immigration authorities and Airport Health Officials of any suspected case,” she said.
In Delhi, Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) announced it had created a 30-bedded isolation ward to quarantine patients infected with the H1N1 virus that causes swine flu.
“We have identified a ward with 30 beds to isolate suspected patients till the disease status is confirmed. They will be treated by a team of 20 doctors and 12 nurses,” said Dr N.K. Chaturvedi, medical superintendent, RML.
— With Jaya Shroff