Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja on Wednesday said health officials could not be blamed if the family of three from Italy had slipped out of the Nedumbassery airport in Kochi without any screening on February 29.
The minister was responding to Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala's poser in the Assembly on Wednesday as to why the family was not spotted and properly screened at the airport.
Chennithala had also put out a Facebook post on March 9 casting doubts on the health surveillance mechanism. The Congress leader also said that based on the information he had, the family had reported to the airport authorities that they were coming from Italy.
Further, Chennithala said the Italy returnees were being subjected to a vicious cyber attack.
The health minister said Chennithala's Facebook post had pained her immensely. "If the opposition does not realise the gravity of the problem we have at hand, then we are bound to fail in our efforts," the minister said in the Assembly.
She said the family coming from Italy was fully aware of the dangers when they landed in Kochi.
"A co-passenger has now come out in the open saying there were announcements during the flight asking those who were coming from Italy to report to the help desk at the airport," the minister said.
It was the family from Italy that had infected eight of the 11 other COVID-19 positive cases in Kerala.
Kerala Congress (B) MLA K B Ganesh Kumar, who had recently travelled to Qatar, said that passengers were also asked to fill a form in which they are asked about the countries they have visited. "This family would not have mentioned Italy," he said.
The health minister said that the government would go into these things at a later date. "Now, the primary responsibility of the government was to save their lives. There are issues that need to be probed and we will do this later. We have them in our custody," the minister said.
She also said that it was easy for anyone to hoodwink the security apparatus in airports. She said that the other day an infected person managed to sneak out of the Delhi airport without reporting.
"Now, authorities in Delhi are on a desperate hunt to trace the contacts of the infected person who had secretly gone out of the airport and interacted with many people outside," she said.
The health minister said the Italy returnees had not only kept their travel history a secret but once home they also went around the place making family and friendly visits. "They went to a private hospital but did not reveal that they had come from Italy. When the health team visited their house, they said they had only a mild fever. But records at the private hospital showed that they had a high fever of 102 degree Celsius," the minister said.
"They were generally unresponsive to our questioning and was forced to talk only when we showed them CCTV footage of their presence in certain areas," the minister said.
COVID-19, which stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019, is the name of the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the Coronavirus family with crown-shaped spikes on its surfaces. The name of the disease was given by the World Health Organisation.