While the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) with regard to travellers from the United Kingdom — following the detection of a new, more transmissible, strain of the novel coronavirus there — five Covid-positive flyers from the UK went untraceable after landing at the Delhi airport on Tuesday.
While three of them were traced by Tuesday night and admitted to Lok Nayak hospital in the capital, one managed to reach Ludhiana while another reached Andhra Pradesh, before they were brought back on Wednesday, The Indian Express has learnt.
According to sources, a 46-year-old man from Amritsar’s Pandori village, who was among those who tested positive, managed to leave the Delhi airport unnoticed and reached Ludhiana, where he checked himself into a private hospital.
“The patient was shifted back to Delhi today (Wednesday) morning after authorities there wanted him to be sent back. The strain he was carrying is still unknown,” the Ludhiana Additional Deputy Commissioner, Sandeep Kumar, told The Indian Express.
A senior health official from Punjab, requesting anonymity, said there was a clear lapse, as the man had managed to travel despite testing positive. “He is from Amritsar but came to Ludhiana as his nephew works in a hospital, and he decided to get admitted here. Around 4.30 pm Tuesday, we received a call from the authorities in Delhi that a man from Punjab had slipped out… As per the protocol, we started looking for him. Around 5.30 pm, he reached Fortis Hospital with his wife, who had accompanied him from the UK. He was isolated and we also isolated two of his closest contacts — his wife and nephew,” said the official.
According to sources, the team from Delhi reached out to officials in Ludhiana to initiate community surveillance. “However, on Tuesday night, we again received a call from the office of Delhi’s special secretary (health), asking us to shift back the patient to Delhi immediately. It was not advisable to do so as the patient was already positive. We refused to shift him late at night,” said the official.
The Ludhiana administration eventually agreed to shift the patient to Delhi on Wednesday. “We were not in favor of shifting the patient back to Delhi because it could lead to spread of the infection… The patient should have been put under institutional quarantine in Delhi itself. We are in the process of tracing his other contacts too,” said the official from Ludhiana.
Dr Shelly Deora, medical superintendent at Ludhiana’s Fortis Hospital, confirmed that “the patient was shifted back to Delhi on Wednesday morning in an ambulance.”
Sources in the Delhi health department said the patient who went to Andhra Pradesh was traced only on Wednesday afternoon, following which they started the process to bring him back. “The department is trying to ascertain the loophole that led to this,” said a senior Delhi government official.
The Delhi government did not respond to a query by The Indian Express. Delhi’s special secretary, health and family welfare, Udit Rai, did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment.
Five passengers on Air India’s London-Delhi flight had tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival. They were among the 500 passengers who arrived at the Delhi airport from the UK on Tuesday.
According to the new SOPs issued by the Centre on Tuesday, Covid-positive passengers from the UK must be shifted to a separate isolation unit, and their samples must be sent for genome sequencing.
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