Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Thursday said the city government will approach airport authorities here over a report that two COVID-positive flyers from the UK had slipped out from the Indira Gandhi International airport. Amid mounting concern over a new strain of the virus detected in the UK, the Delhi government on Tuesday had said people who have arrived here recently from that country, are being traced and tested, while an institutional quarantine facility was being set up separately for positive cases at the LNJP Hospital.
At a press conference on Thursday, when asked about the report that two passengers from the UK, who had landed at the Delhi airport on Tuesday, had further travelled to Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, despite testing positive for COVID-19, Jain said, "I have also read about it in the newspaper today". "Flight operations and security there is under the airport authorities… But a person who has tested positive, should not have moved out," Jain said.
Asked, about the responsibility of the nodal officer for COVID-19 at the Delhi airport, the health minister said, "We will talk to airport authorities about it". The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) did not respond to the PTI's request for a statement on this matter.
The Delhi airport is managed and operated by the GMR group-led DIAL. The Centre-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) had privatised the Delhi airport in 2006. The Delhi airport's security is handled by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). CISF DIG (IGI airport) Sachin Badshah said, "The CISF has no role on the arrival side. The force personnel just facilitate the arriving passengers".
According to the report, the two UK flyers, who had "slipped out", have been traced and "brought back" to Delhi. All passengers arriving from the UK are being tested for COVID-19 at the Delhi airport.
"Those found positive are being quarantined in an institutional quarantine facility," Jain said. Sources said that multiple persons who returned from the UK, and tested positive, have been brought to the LNJP Hospital's separate isolation unit. However, they did not divulge the exact number.
Eleven passengers on four flights from the UK were found positive for COVID-19 when tested on arrival at the Delhi airport, Gauri Agarwal, founder of the Genestrings Diagnostic Center which is handling coronavirus testing of all passengers at the Delhi airport, had said on Wednesday. Agarwal had said 50 passengers from the four flights have been put under institutional quarantine. An institutional quarantine facility has been created at city government-run hospital, a dedicated coronavirus facility, in an isolated area, away from the main COVID wards, for UK passengers testing positive at the airport.
"As per the new SOPs, genome sequencing of their test samples is also to be done. Those cases, where the old strain will be found, will be moved to the regular COVID wards," a source said. Jain on Wednesday had said people who have arrived here from the UK in the last few weeks, are being rigorously traced, and tested if anyone is showing slightest of COVID-19-like symptoms, even as he asserted the situation in the city was under control with positivity rate plummeting to below one per cent.
According to a December 22 order, all passengers travelling from or transiting through airports in the UK and disembarking in India would be subjected to "RT-PCR test on arrival". "Also, passengers of the flights from the UK landing at Delhi International Airport for the last four weeks (November 25-December 23, 2020) will be tested, and then further followed up on a daily basis for 28 days," the order said.
Jain had earlier said that Delhi has fought difficult battles with COVID-19 and all efforts will be made to ensure that the gains made in the management of the pandemic is "not reversed" "The Delhi government is on alert in the wake of a mutated coronavirus strain detected in the UK. The situation is being closely monitored, as this strain is more transmissible," he had said. The Civil Aviation Ministry on Monday had said all flights from the UK to India and vice versa will remain suspended from Wednesday to December 31 in view of the emergence of a mutated variant of the coronavirus there.
Delhi recorded 871 fresh COVID-19 cases and 18 new fatalities on Wednesday, even as the positivity rate slipped to 0.99 per cent, the lowest in the last eight months.