New Delhi: Officials on Tuesday said that eight passengers who arrived in India last night on two separate flights from London have tested positive for COVID, while those on a British Airways plane that landed this morning in Delhi are being tested.
According to a report by NDTV, these developments come amid rising fears over a new strain of coronavirus that has been detected in the UK, leading to air traffic from that country being blocked by several nations, including India, in the past few days.
India’s ban on flights from the UK, however, will come into effect only from Wednesday and will last till December 31. Till then, the government has said, all passengers arriving from the UK will be tested on arrival at airports.
The report added that six passengers who tested positive on their arrival in India were among the 266 who travelled by the Air India Flight that landed in Delhi at 10: 40pm on Monday.
Quoting government official Awanish Kumar, who is helping coordinate the tests at the New Delhi airport, the report said it was “unclear” if any of them had a new strain. “It is unclear…NCDC will confirm this,” the report quoted Kumar as having said, referring to the National Centre for Disease Control, to which samples of the passengers tested in Delhi have been sent.
One of the six took a connecting flight to Chennai and tested positive there, according to an agency report.
“We are testing for COVID-19 passengers of flights originating or halting in UK. One such passenger tested positive yesterday,” Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan told news agency ANI. However, he also said, “It’s incorrect to presume that he is infected with UK variant of COVID. We’ll send his samples to NIV (National Institute of Virology), Pune.”
Two passengers on a flight from UK tested positive at Kolkata airport on Sunday night, PTI reported citing state health department officials. The flight carried 222 passengers in all.
In the meantime, at least two other flights from Britain have landed in India since the announcement of the flight ban, one in Mumbai and the other in Amritsar, Punjab. Test results from the 240 people who arrived late on Monday in Amritsar were due on Tuesday afternoon, government official Deepak Bhatia told an international news agency Reuters.
The WHO has said that the mutant strain of the virus, with a 70% higher rate of transmission, may already be present in several countries, although it was “unlikely that a couple of mutations” could affect the immune system’s response to an existing vaccine.
According to WHO, first identified in the UK in September, the new strain is rapidly replacing other variations of the virus.