The Cochin International Airport officials said on Wednesday that the three passengers who arrived on February 29 deliberately concealed information that they were coming from Italy, which has been reeling under the COVID-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus) outbreak. Italy has reported more than 600 COVID-19 deaths so far.
The statement substantiated the claims by the State health minister and the Pathanamthitta district collector, who said that the family had exited the airport concealing their travel details.
The three passengers - a 25-year-old man, his 55-year-old father and 53-year-old mother - were tested positive for coronavirus on March 8. Two other members in their family too contracted the disease. All the five hail from Pathanamthitta district. They took Qatar Airways flight from Venice to Doha (QR-129) and the connection flight to Kochi (QR-514).
In an interview with Malayala Manorama on, March 9, the 25-year-old-man had refuted the allegations. "Though we said (to the airport officials) that we were coming from Italy, no one asked us to undergo any tests. We did not consciously conceal our travel details. Anybody could find out where we were coming from by checking the passport," he had said in the interview.
'They did not report at the health desk'
Universal health screening began at the airport on March 3 in the wake of global coronavirus outbreak. Prior to that, the screening was limited to passengers from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea. Those travelling from Iran and Italy were advised to inform at the health counters. No direct flights operate from the two destinations to Kochi.
"We have installed signboards at the arrival lounge asking passengers from these countries to report at the health desk. The flight crew too made several announcements before landing. The three passengers headed to the emigration counter without reporting at the health desk. Other passengers who came from Italy by the same flight had reported the health desk," said a statement from the airport.
The statement slammed the family, who claimed that they would have undergone medical tests had any official at the airport asked them to do so. "They had concealed travel details. The government inquiry too established it," the statement said.
According to the statement, passengers are being screened by a 60-member expert medical team at both international and domestic terminals round the clock.
"We have pressed 10 sanitised ambulances into service to transfer passengers arriving with COVID-19 symptoms," the statement said.
It denied allegations that the airport officials mistreated 52 passengers who arrived from Italy early on Wednesday. "All the 52 passengers arrived without the mandatory health certificate from Italy. So we transferred them to the quickly-set up isolation ward at the Government Taluk Hospital in Aluva by 5am. Till then, the airport officials took care of them," the statement said.