File photo: Passengers queue at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)
File photo: Passengers queue at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

20 passengers from UK test positive for Covid-19, states begin contact tracing

At least two people tested positive for Covid-19 in Kolkata after returning from UK. Seven passengers and a crew member who arrived from the UK in an Air India flight tested positive for Covid-19 in Punjab.
By Joydeep Thakur and Divya Chandrababu | Hindustan Times, Kolkata/Chennai
UPDATED ON DEC 22, 2020 09:59 PM IST

With as many as 20 passengers from the United Kingdom testing positive for Covid-19 at airports in Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, the state governments have initiated vigorous contract tracking of passengers who came from UK or other European countries in the past 10 days.

At least two people tested positive for Covid-19 in Kolkata after returning from UK, said West Bengal health secretary NS Nigam, state health secretary.

One person has tested positive for Covid-19 out of 24 passengers who returned from the UK to Tamil Nadu, said health secretary J Radhakrishnan. 15 passengers were tested on Monday and another 9 were tested on Tuesday. “We have also identified another 15 people who were in close contact with the positive person as they travelled together by Air India 553 domestic flight,” Radhakrishnan said. “They could have been exposed as they sat in rows adjacent to this (infected) individual. They are already in-home quarantine but we are going to test them too.”

The health department on priority is tracking the health of 1,088 passengers who came from England in the last seven days who are likely to be tested in the next stage. As per government’s SOP data of all international travellers who arrived after November 25 is being collected.

Seven passengers and a crew member who arrived from the UK in an Air India flight tested positive for Covid-19, Punjab minister for medical education and research, OP Soni told reporters, adding that those who tested positive for the infection will be quarantined. Six passengers at Delhi airport coming from the UK were also found positive for Covid-19.

Four passengers including a British national who arrived at Ahmedabad on Tuesday morning by an Air India flight from London tested positive for Covid-19, a city civic official said. Six passengers at Delhi airport coming from UK were also found Covid positive.

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The swab samples of the Covid-19 positive passengers have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for genomic testing to ascertain if it’s the new strain of the virus. The test reports would come in a few days. The union health ministry officials on Tuesday said that there was no confirmed case of new coronavirus strain in the country.

The British government had warned of a potent new strain of the Covid-19 virus that was ‘out of control’ with 70 per cent more ability to transmit and had imposed a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown from Sunday. India on Monday announced the suspension of all flights to and from the UK between December 23 and December 31 to prevent the arrival of the new Covid-19 strain that is believed to spread the infection faster.

Experts said the possibility of the new strain of the virus having entering India could not be ruled out . The first confirmation of the new strain in the UK came about a week ago.

However, states such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Kerala have started tracking all passengers who have come from the UK and other European countries in the past 10 days for Covid-19.

Greater Chennai municipal corporation deputy commissioner Meghnathan Reddy said if a UK returnee is found positive, the entire street where they are staying will be tested. “There swab samples will also be sent for genome testing to NIV, Pune,” Radhakrishnan said. Those testing negative will be sent home for 14-day quarantine and positive cases will be referred to hospitals.

Close to 2,000 passengers from the UK arrived at the Chennai airport in the past week. In case of Kolkata, the number is close to 1,500. Some of the passengers did not get RT-PCRT tests done, after which they were tested again.

“At least 222 passengers on a flight came to Kolkata from London early on Sunday. At least 25 passengers, who didn’t have RT-PCR test reports with them at the time of landing were tested in Kolkata. Two of them tested positive and were shifted them to two separate hospitals,” Nigam said.

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Kaushik Bhattacharya, director of NSCBI airport said, “If anyone tests positive, the infected person is taken by the state government officials to a Covid-19 designated hospital.”

At Amritsar’s Sri Guru Ramdas Jee International airport, all passengers coming from the UK are being tested for Covid-19, which lead to long waiting hours for passengers to leave the airport. “Clearing the patients could take some time as all passengers and crew members are being tested for Covid-19,” said Amritsar assistant deputy commissioner Himanshu Aggarwal.

Ankush, a resident of Faridkot in Punjab, said his brother Ankur has arrived from the UK. “All our family members have been waiting for him for the past several hours,” PTI quoted him as saying. He accused the authorities of not informing them about the time to be taken for his clearance.

In Telangana, where 358 passengers had arrived in the past one week from the UK, efforts were on to trace them, said Telangana Public Health Director G Srinivas Rao. He added that no case of the new strain of Covid-19 has been confirmed so far and all passengers are being tested for Covid. Hyderabad had four direct flights and seven connecting flights to the UK.

Uttar Pradesh health department issued directions to test all passengers who came back from UK and Europe in the past one week for Covid-19, a statement by the state government said. Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain told reporters that the government officials will visit homes of passengers who have arrived from the UK in the past 10 days to check their health condition. Similar, standard operating procedure was also issued by the Chhattisgarh government on Tuesday evening.

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