Covid cases likely evading check at Karnataka airports

Many Covid cases likely evading detection at airports in Karnataka

A senior government official said that multiple such instances had been recorded at the airport

A health worker takes swab samples for Covid-19 test. Credit: DH Photo

A number of air passengers with Covid-19 could be evading detection at airports in Karnataka because of loopholes in the union government’s airport surveillance guidelines. 

This was highlighted by two fliers with Omicron who managed to exit the Kempegowda International Airport last week even though testing would reveal that they were positive for the disease. 

A senior government official said that multiple such instances had been recorded at the airport and that instructions had been previously sent to the officers at the airport to clamp down on lapses. 

Officials in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) confirmed this, expressing frustration that poor screening is hampering efforts at containing the viral outbreak in the city.  “All their lapses mean that we in the city are suffering the consequences,” a municipal official told DH

The two Omicron cases include Nataraj G (name changed), a 53-year-old native of Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, who arrived at the airport from Dubai on December 23. As per a note from the government, Nataraj was subjected to an RT-PCR test even though travellers from Dubai are not required to be tested. “He was likely tested because he either had mild symptoms, did not have a negative RT-PCR certificate from Dubai or was not vaccinated,” a government official said. 

However, without waiting for his test result to be declared, Nataraj left the airport with his son and drove to Tiruchirappalli. The DHO for Bengaluru Rural, Dr Thipeswammy, said that as soon as airport officials learned that the traveller was positive, they informed officials in Tamil Nadu to isolate him. 

Also read: Amid sudden spike in Covid cases, Govt writes to 8 states/UTs for 'immediate action'

Dr K Vanitha, Dean of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital in Tiruchirappalli, where the case was hospitalised on December 23, told DH that the subject did not have symptoms on arrival. 

The second case was a domestic traveller from Mumbai, who was also tested on arrival on December 23 even though there is no mandatory testing for domestic travellers. “It appears he was allowed to leave the airport and board a bus to Mumbai after receiving his test report,” an official said. 

The cases show that fliers with Covid-19 from other states and non-high-risk countries could be slipping through undetected because of the airport guidelines. “There is no rule that allows airport personnel to detain such passengers even if an RT-PCR test result is awaited,” a government source said. 

When asked about the incidents, D Randeep, Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare, said that instructions would be sent to the District Surveillance Officer, Bengaluru Rural, to introduce a testing certificate check at exit gates to ensure that positive cases do not slip through in future. 

Since December 1, as many as 95,729 air passengers have arrived at the state’s airports. Some 19,741 air passengers from high-risk countries have arrived in the state since
November 1. 

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