COVID-19: Infected Briton flees Kerala after official slip-up at Kochi Airport
A UK tourist and a Thiruvananthapuram based doctor who had gone abroad for studies tested positive for COVID-19 in Kerala on Sunday, taking the total number of infected cases in the state to 24, second behind Maharashtra (31).
But what dominated the day’s discussion was a slip-up on the part of the authorities which saw the British citizen almost flee the country via the Kochi airport.
The tourist tested positive and was prohibited from travelling. But the 57-year-old was found in the queue to board a Dubai-bound Emirates flight along with his wife on Sunday morning, setting off a chain of events at the airport.
The authorities soon halted the flight from taking off and de-boarded all the 290 passengers including the remaining 17 members of the group which the UK couple belonged to. The tourists had landed in Kochi on March 6 and have been vacationing mostly in Munnar. After the test results came on Saturday, the Briton was advised not to travel or mingle with people.
Despite instructions to not let off the foreign contingent, the KTDC’s Tea County Resort allowed the foreign tourists to check out on Saturday night, causing panic and confusion, said Minister V S Sunil Kumar, who held an emergency meeting at the airport.
While the British couple were shifted to the Ernakulam Medical College Hospital, the other 17 members of the group have been quarantined at a private hotel near the airport, the minister said. The chief minister has sought a report from the Idukki district collector on the slip-up.
Kochi Airport director A C K Nair told TNIE that the couple did not board the flight, contrary to what reports said initially. He also said “after completing the emigration process, they were waiting in the queue to board the flight when they were detected”.
The Kochi Airport, meanwhile, disinfected the entire area where the foreign contingent walked through. One passenger, who was also bound for Dubai, decided not to fly as he was seated near the foreign tourist group inside the flight, officials said.
The Emirates flight (EK531) took off with 270 passengers at 12:47 pm, after a three-hour delay. The airport, which is normally closed from 10 am to 6 pm due to the runway resurfacing work, had allowed Emirates flight to take off as a special case.
Meanwhile, the government has also put four persons who accompanied the Thiruvananthapuram-based COVID-19 positive doctor, who accompanied him during his travel to Spain.
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