77,000 international flyers checked on Day 1 of universal screening

NEW DELHI: The first day of universal screening on Friday saw 76,670
passengers flying into India on 557 flights being checked for
coronavirus symptoms. Of these, 24 were referred for further checks, an aviation official said on Saturday.

“Among those referred for further checks were passengers who showed symptoms. They flew into India directly or indirectly from Bangladesh, Oman,
Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Italy, UAE and Malaysia on Friday. Among asymptomatic passengers, a person coming from Italy via Abu Dhabi, one from Taiwan and three from
Singapore were also referred,” the official said.

Meanwhile, a Mahan Air flight flew into Delhi early Saturday morning with swab samples of 108 Indians and it returned to Tehran with about 200 Iranian passengers from here, the official said. These swabs are being tested for coronavirus and their results are expected in about 12 hours. Indians found corona-free will be allowed to fly back home on subsequent flights of Mahan Air and Iran Air. These two airlines have been allowed by India to fly 2,000 Indians from Iran and as many Iranians from India.

While no Indian carrier flies to Iran, these two Iranian airlines fly to Delhi and Mumbai. Their flights were stopped by India on February 25 due to the spread of coronavirus epidemic in Iran. Indians stuck in Iran are mostly Shia pilgrims from Kargil.

Airport operators are now figuring out which all among the 30 international airports can have separate immigration, custom counters and baggage belts for passengers from 12 corona hotspot nations — China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, France, Spain, UK and USA — as per health ministry directives. Delhi, which has India’s busiest airport, is doing a trial run on a few flights to work out the modalities for this.

Health ministry joint secretary
Sudhir Kumar had written to his counterpart in the finance ministry (department of revenue) in charge of customs, V K Shrivastava, on Friday saying: “Minister of health and family welfare (Harsh Vardhan) and other senior officers visited (Delhi’s) IGI Airport in the late night on March 5 and reviewed the preparedness with respect to universal screening of international passengers for coronavirus. It was observed that there was mixing of international passengers from 12 more vulnerable countries and passengers from other countries at immigration counter, customs clearance counter, baggage belts, etc.”

Kumar’s letter further said, “There is likelihood of spread of infection from passengers coming from these 12 more vulnerable countries to passengers coming from other countries. Accordingly, it was directed that separate passage at the immigration counter, customs clearance counter and baggage belts be ensured for international passengers coming from these 12 countries. All the departments of government of India concerned are informed to take urgent steps at all the international airports in this regard. Needful action to be also taken for required security check by home ministry paramilitary personnel in this regard.”

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