Testing Probed After 100s Of ‘Positive’ Travelers Arrive In India

Facilities at India’s Amritsar airport are being questioned following two recent incidents involving hundreds of passengers testing COVID positive after arriving from Italy. Many passengers were never fully convinced of the results and underwent separate COVID tests, which came out negative. Officials in Amritsar have launched a probe against the private lab, which conducted the tests for arriving passengers.

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A probe has been launched against the COVID testing facilities at India’s Amritsar airport. Photo: Getty Images

Misleading results

As reported earlier, Amritsar’s Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport came into the spotlight twice recently after hundreds of passengers arriving on chartered flights from Italy tested positive for COVID. The first of the two flights originated in Milan and was found to be carrying 125 COVID-positive passengers. The next day, 173 passengers from another flight from Rome tested positive for the virus upon arrival.

Many passengers refused to believe the tests saying they had tested negative just hours before boarding the planes in Italy. It was, indeed, surprising for that many people to have turned positive during the flight.

While many passengers were already voicing their doubts over the test results, it was only when some of them later tested negative in a re-test that authorities in Amritsar decided to launch a probe into the incidents.

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The “positive” passengers had arrived on chartered EuroAtlantic flights. Photo: Getty Images

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Probe launched

The Delhi-based lab was set up at Amritsar airport just last month by the Airports Authority of India. The passengers on the two flights from Italy had raised questions on the testing practices of the lab and even got into an argument with airport officials.

Speaking about the ongoing probe against the lab, Assistant Civil Surgeon Dr Amarjit Singh said,

“A probe has been initiated by the Airports Authority of India against the alleged errant working of the laboratory. The services of the existing Delhi-based laboratory have been suspended. The lab was engaged on December 15 last year by the AAI. Now a new local laboratory has resumed its working at the airport.”

So far, there has been no other incident of such kind at the airport.

Testing protocols in India

According to the rules laid down by the Union Health Ministry of India, passengers arriving from “at risk” countries need to take a mandatory COVID-19 test at all airports in India. Several European countries, including Italy, fall into this category.

Amritsar isn’t the first airport to have come under the scanner for its testing practices. Earlier this month, a British Indian man claimed his positive COVID test at Mumbai airport was a scam. As reported by NDTV, the passenger questioned his as well as the results of 14 other passengers who had arrived on a flight from London.

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Mumbai airport is now screening all international passengers for COVID. Photo: Getty Images

Mumbai airport has gone a step further and is testing all international passengers irrespective of whether they departed from an “at risk” country or not. The updated guidelines were announced by the civic body of Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on January 4th.

Have you recently passed through an Indian airport as an international passenger? What was your experience like? Do share in the comments section below.