Kochi: The Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) authorities on Sunday off-loaded 290 passengers of a Dubai-bound flight after a tourist from the United Kingdom, who tested positive for coronavirus, was found among the passengers.
The UK citizen was part of a 19-member group touring Munnar and he was under observation. He has been kept under isolation along with his wife at the Kalamassery Medical College.
The other 17 members of the tour group has been quarantined at an undisclosed hotel in Kochi.
He came to the airport without informing the authorities, CIAL authorities said.
The flight later left with 270 passengers after the UK group and another passenger were off-loaded, according to airport authorities.
Kerala Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar told media that one passenger voluntarily opted to cancel the journey and went on home quarantine after medical tests. The minister said the government did not want to reveal that passenger's identity.
“The Emirates plane EK 531 departed to Dubai at 12:47 hrs with 270 passengers. Runway was made available for departure for this delayed flight as there was no normal operation from 10am to 6pm due to the resurfacing project which will be completed only on March 28,” the CIAL spokesperson said.
The authorities have been trying to locate the infected UK tourist since Saturday night after they received his test result.
Health Minister's response
State Health Minister K K Shailaja asserted that there is no need to panic. The journey of the tourist group from Munnar to Kochi is being tracked, she said.
"Right from the beginning, we have been urging everyone not to conceal any details. We had examined all the members of the UK team when they landed in Kerala and samples of the man were collected as he had some symptoms. He was advised to be quarantined in the Munnar resort,” she said.
As soon as results showed he was coronavirus positive, we had sent an ambulance to shift him to the hospital on Saturday evening, she informed.
However, before the health department team reached there, the UK tourist group had checked out of the resort.
“We sent out immediate alerts and could track them at the airport," the minister told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.
She urged resort owners not to let out those on quarantine without the permission of the health department.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought a report on the incident from Health and Tourism departments, the Idukki district collector and the state police chief.
As the news broke, the authorities shut down the Tea County resort where the tourists stayed in Munnar. The hotel is owned by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.
The UK citizen reached Munnar on March 7 and his samples were tested two days later by the health department officials. The tourist group had checked out on Saturday, according to TV reports. The resort staff did not inform authorities that the UK citizen left for Kochi airport.
Resort manager detained
The police have taken the manager of the Tea County resort to custody. He was questioned at the resort itself. The police did not take him to the station as he might be infected with the virus. He was detained for allegedly helping the UK team leave the resort without authorities' permission. Other employees of the resort are also under police scanner.
A meeting of higher officials, headed by Electricity Minister M M Mani, was held in Idukki following the incident.