India resumes random Covid19 testing at airports

NEW DELHI, 23 Dec 2022:

India yesterday resumed carrying out random Covid19 testing at airports for passengers arriving with international flights, even as infections have been surging in neighbouring China and there are concerns that new variants of the virus could enter the country.

“From today onwards, 2% Covid19 RT PCR random sampling of foreign return passengers has begun at international airports,” Indian health minister Mansukh Mandaviya told the parliament.

The minister urged provincial governments to remain alert, “especially minding the upcoming festivals and New Year to make people aware to wear masks, sanitisation of hands and taking care of respiratory hygiene and maintaining distance.”

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi met health authorities to evaluate new measures in light of the situation in China – where infection figures have surged after the easing of restrictions, despite the official data not reflecting all the infections.

Earlier this week, the Indian health ministry issued a circular to regional governments to increase vigilance against the coronavirus, with the aim of detecting new variants as soon as they enter the country.

Even though the number of fresh cases in the country has remained low – with less than 200 daily infections recorded in recent weeks – the fresh surge in cases in countries such as Japan, South Korea, the US, Brazil and especially China, has set alarm bells ringing in India.

The South Asian nation has been one of the worst affected by the pandemic, with over 44.6 million cases and 530,680 deaths documented so far, although international bodies such as World Health Organisation have estimated that the real death toll could have been as high as 4.7 million.

The second coronavirus wave to hit India was especially virulent and resulted in daily case loads of over 35,000 and more than 3,700 daily deaths at its peak in May 2021, triggering a chronic oxygen shortage in the hospitals.