We will talk to airport authorities: Jain on 2 COVID-positive flyers slipping out report

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New Delhi, Dec 24 (PTI) Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Thursday said the city government will approach the airport authorities here over a report that two COVID-positive flyers from the United Kingdom had slipped out from the Delhi 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 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'.

Acording 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 multiple persons who returned from UK, and tested positive, have been brought to 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 are 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.

On resumption of classes for medical students, Jain indicated that LNJP Hospital and GTB Hospital, attached to Delhi government medical colleges, might be turned into a partial COVID-19 facility to enable them to complete the course.

'Also, not many students are on duty for COVID, but we will examine it,' he added.

Delhi recorded 1,063 fresh COVID-19 cases and 37 new fatalities on Thursday, even as the positivity rate stood at 1.18 per cent, authorities said.

The infection tally in the city mounted to over 6.2 lakh and death toll rose to 10,384, they said.

From December 21-23, the daily cases count had been below the 1,000-mark. On Monday, 803 cases were reported, the lowest since August 17 with 939 on Tuesday and 871 on Wednesday.

The fresh 1,063 cases came out of 89,920 tests conducted the previous day, including 47,889 RT-PCR tests and 42,031 rapid antigen tests, according to the latest bulletin issued by the Delhi health department.

The active cases tally on Thursday dropped to 7,909 from 8,003 on Wednesday. The bulletin said the total number of cases has climbed to 6,20,681.

The number of containment zones in Delhi dropped to 5,152 on Thursday from 5,501 the previous day, authorities said.

The bulletin said 6,20,681 patients have recovered, been discharged or migrated so far.

The number of people in home isolation dropped to 3,938 on Wednesday from 4,155 the previous day. PTI KND DSP NES HDA