NEW DELHI: Passengers arriving from West Asia, or the Middle-East, brought in the maximum number of COVID-19 cases in India, according to an analysis by researchers from IIT-Chennai based on assessment of an online airline database. Flights arriving from seven airports in the region, mainly Dubai, carried the highest number of infected passengers to India until the country suspended international flights on March 24 midnight.
The importation risk indices of the individual countries for various airports show the West Asian nations were followed by the UK, Italy and the US. India had registered 657 cases till March 25, of which 62% were ‘imported’ cases. While 300 infected passengers arrived from West Asian/Gulf countries, the second highest number, 50, was from the UK.
The countries selected for importation risk index calculation were China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, the UAE, the UK and the US — which together constituted 70 per cent of the total infected cases.
Sachin S Gunthe and Satya S Patra from IIT-Chennai’s Department of Civil Engineering assessed FLIRT, an online airline database, for more than 800 airlines, over 180,000 flights and 39.9 million passenger seats during March 4-25. They used data from government organisations for 10 countries to screen the flights and passengers from 24 airports connecting international airports.
Their findings revealed that contrary to perception, travellers from China posed the lowest risk, which is evident from the fact that while cases were on the peak in China, India was least affected. The number of cases started exhibiting a sharp increase only after European countries and US recorded a large number of infected cases, according to the analysis. The airports in West Asian countries, particularly Dubai, being one of the largest transit hubs for international passengers, those arriving from there might have posed a higher risk of getting infected with the virus.
Suggesting that any future disease/infection screening at the airports should critically assess passengers from major transit hubs, the analysis pointed out that as of March 4, India had started thermal screening passengers from 12 countries but no West Asian/Gulf country was among those.