At least one passenger on each of the two flights operated on Day 1 of Vande Bharat rescue mission have tested positive on arrival, raising some concern about the safety of the passengers on these flights.
Day 1 of the operation had seen around 340 passengers touch down in two separate flights at Kochi and Calicut.
Both the Kochi flight — which originated in Abu Dhabi — and the Calicut flight — which came from Dubai — reported one active Coronavirus patient, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said today.
Because of these two patients, the total active COVID-19 cases in Kerala has now gone up to 17.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he was not surprised by the results. “We anticipated this, and hence, we conducted strict checking [of their vitals],” he said.
Vijayan had earlier expressed his disagreement with the way in which passengers from COVID-19 hotspots, such as the UAE, the US and UK, are being allowed to get abroad the rescue flights without being subjected to an RT-PCR (swab) test first.
According to information available at present, passengers departing from some airports are being subjected to rapid/antibody tests.
However, these tests are not always reliable. Antibody tests are also useless in figuring out the infection status of most asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, as antibodies start showing up only several days after the infection.
However, an infected person can start spreading the disease to others within 2-3 days of getting infected.
“The problem with this disease is that it takes several days for the symptoms to show up,” Pinarayi Vijayan said, adding he was certain that the two passengers had Coronavirus when they boarded the planes in the UAE.
Besides the delayed onset of symptoms, Vijayan said, “it is also possible to hide the symptoms by taking certain medicines.”
“However, we don’t know what happened in these cases,” he added. “What we can say is that there was no failure from our part.”
Vijayan also said the presence of positive COVID-19 cases on flights that contain a large number of pregnant women is a cause for concern.
Out of the 340 or so passengers who arrived on the two flights on Thursday night, around 60 were pregnant women, who tend to have low immunity power.
As of now, Kerala has put in a two-step quarantine process.
In step one, all overseas passengers are subjected to a symptom check on arrival. If they pass, they are moved to a government-arranged quarantine facility for observation for seven days.
If they show any symptoms during these seven days, they are subjected to an RT-PCR test for Coronavirus.
In step two, any remaining passengers are subjected to an RT-PCR test at the end of the seven day period, and if they test negative, are allowed to go on to their homes on the eighth day.
The two passengers who tested positive after landing on Thursday night were both flagged during the intial symptom tests, and were subsequently subjected to RT-PCR tests.
Vijayan said the Kerala government is trying to locate the passengers who sat in the seats near these two infected passengers and is paying special attention to such passengers.
Meanwhile, he said, more attention is also being paid to everyone who came in the two flights.
Small children, pregnant women and very old passengers are being allowed to go to their homes and remain in home quarantine.