A 57-year-old UK national, who tested positive but fled quarantine at a resort in Munnar, was offloaded from a Dubai-bound flight at Kochi airport on Sunday. The man’s wife and 17 others who were part of the tourist group were offloaded too.
While the UK national and his wife have been admitted to an isolation facility at a government hospital, the 17 others from his group have been sent to a hotel for quarantine. Another passenger voluntarily opted not to travel and has been advised home quarantine, officials said.
While all passengers of the flight were offloaded shortly before take-off on Sunday morning, after the tourist was found to be infected, the flight was later cleared for take-off with 270 passengers.
State Health Minister K K Shailaja said the tourists had left the resort, a Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) undertaking, without informing the health officials, and a report has been sought from the Idukki district collector.
“The UK citizen tested positive on Saturday late night. When the health workers reached the resort in Munnar with an ambulance to shift him to hospital, he, along with others, had left the resort. The resort authorities should have been more vigilant and they should have obtained the permission of the health department before allowing the tourists to move out,” she said.
Idukki District Collector H Dinesh said the health workers had met the UK national at the resort on Saturday night and advised him to stay back. “The test results came late night, and the entire group had left. The resort manager did not inform the district administration or health department. The health officials learnt that the tourist was missing only this morning, when they went to the resort to isolate him. It is a grave lapse on the part of the resort manager. Action will be taken as per the directions of the government, which has sought a report’’’ he said, adding that the resort manager has been taken into custody.
On Sunday morning, at 8.45 am, the Ernakulam district administration got an alert from officials in Idukki that the UK citizen had tested positive, but fled the resort and was scheduled to board the Dubai-bound Emirates flights at 9 am. The airport authorities were informed, and all passengers of the flight were offloaded.
All the airport staff and CISF personnel, who came in contact with the UK citizen, were identified and advised home quarantine. The airport area and aerobridge were disinfected.
The incident has triggered panic in Munnar, where tourists have begun to vacate hotels and resorts. The district collector has ordered the closure of all resorts till March 31. The staff at the resort where the UK citizen stayed have been put under observation, and steps have been taken to identify those who came in contact with the tourists in the state.
The UK national arrived in Kochi on March 6, and stayed at a hotel for two days before going to Thrissur. He reached Munnar on March 10, with suspected symptoms of COVID-19. The next day, he was taken to a hospital in Kottayam for sample collection, after which he returned to the resort in Munnar. On March 12, the resort allowed him to go out, but he was asked to remain under observation.
Meanwhile, a doctor from Thiruvananthapuram, who returned from Spain, also tested positive on Sunday.
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