Delhi: Missing UK travellers give health dept officials a headache

These missing travellers have either provided either incomplete or old addresses on passports and non-working international cell phone numbers that has hindered their search by district officials.
Travellers show their IDs while maintaining social distancing at an entry gate at Terminal T2 of Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport which resumes operations from today in New Delhi.(Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)
Travellers show their IDs while maintaining social distancing at an entry gate at Terminal T2 of Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport which resumes operations from today in New Delhi.(Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Dec 30, 2020 12:12 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAbhishek Dey and Anonna Dutt

As many as 90 travellers from the United Kingdom, who flew into the city after November 25, have remained untraceable by authorities in one district of Delhi, officials said.

These missing travellers have either provided either incomplete or old addresses on passports and non-working international cell phone numbers that has hindered their search by district officials.

“At least five to 10 persons remain completely untraceable in every district in Delhi. The highest number of people remain untraceable in the New Delhi and Central districts. The names of these people have been shared with different authorities; everyone is looking for them. The rest were tracked in other districts,” said an official from health department. In New Delhi district at least 90 people have not been traced.

Also Read | Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune: Where India found samples of UK returnees positive for new coronavirus strain

The Indian government had suspended flights from the United Kingdom from December 23, with all passengers who flew into the country on December 21 and December 22 being made to undergo mandatory RT-PCR tests . This was done after London and other regions of UK went into lockdown due to a new variant of coronavirus disease that was found to be spreading there.

The new variant has 23 mutations, one of which is on the receptor binding domain of the spike protein of the Sars-Cov-2 virus and is thought to be 70% more transmissible than the other strains.

So far, six of the UK passengers who tested positive for the viral infection were found to be carrying the new variant.

A senior official in the revenue department said around 14,000 passengers arrived at the Delhi airport since November 25 – of which at least 1,500 are Delhi residents.

So far, 20 such individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 in general in Delhi. Eleven of them were identified after being tested on arrival over December 22 and 23. And nine – who had arrived in Delhi between November 25 and December 21 – were identified through the government’s on-going outreach drive that started last Wednesday.

At least 13 of their contacts, who have also tested positive for the viral infection, have been admitted to Delhi government’s Lok Nayak hospital in the special isolation ward.

While all arrivals on or after December 7 are mandatorily being tested, those who arrived between November 25 and December 6 are being put under surveillance as of now, said a senior official in the government’s revenue department.

The government, however, did not share data on how many individuals out of the total 1,500 could be traced by them so far. HT contacted officials from all eleven districts but was able to get responses of officials from only five districts.

“Several individuals who arrived in Delhi from UK have filed wrong numbers in the forms submitted to the government on arrival. The problem came to light only after the tracing process began last Wednesday. Some had filled nine digits, instead of 10. In such cases, surveillance officers are calling up all 10 possible combinations for the last number,” said a senior official in south-east district, which is learnt to have 308 UK-arrivals – of which 17 are yet to be traced.

“In several cases, fliers have submitted their UK numbers. The district officials have tried making both normal calls and WhatsApp calls in such numbers. Most they have elicited no response. It is quite likely that the same person is using a different number when in India,” said a senior official in west district, which has had 270 UK-arrivals – of which around 60 are yet to be traced.

“In most cases, people have filled up incomplete addresses. As in, they have mentioned localities but not blocks, lanes, apartment numbers, or house numbers. Several had mentioned hotel details. In most such cases, it emerged that the individuals had already left for the UK in a return flight by the time officials could reach them. There are many cases of incorrect addresses too,” said an official in New Delhi district – which has recorded 190 UK arrivals of which around 90 are yet to be traced.

An official from Shahadara district said, “Of the 60 people that were to be traced by us, only 22 were in the district. None have gone to other cities. And, three have returned back to UK.”

An official from Central district said, “Most of the addresses on the passports of the travellers are from years ago when the passport must have been issued. They no longer live on these addresses and hence could not be traced.”

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