KOCHI: The way the family from Venice slipped through the screening system at the Kochi Airport has come as a jolt to the Health Department and spoiled the hard-earned reputation of the state as the most secure place in the country to guard against the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
But the authorities have put the blame squarely on the Ranni family for concealing vital information including the fact they arrived from Italy, which now has the second-largest COVID-19 infected cases after China, when they landed at the Kochi airport.
Airport officials said till March 3, the screening was only a voluntary process and the passengers arriving at CIAL were required to fill a declaration form by furnishing details like the country from where they are arriving and whether they have any signs of illness such as sneezing, cough or fever. Also, the declaration forms were only for passengers coming from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea.
“As per the earlier decision of the government, the passengers have to voluntarily reveal their country of departure and go through thermal screening. They have to fill a declaration form by furnishing their country and whether they are facing any diseases like sneezing, coughing, etc,” said N K Kuttappan, DMO, Ernakulam.
Coronavirus LIVE UPDATES | Saudi-returned virus suspect dies in Bengal; total cases now 39
Kuttappan said the family has acted “irresponsibly” to evade the screening by hiding important points in the declaration form.
“As the form filling is compulsory for passengers to come out of the airport, the Ranni family has submitted the form without informing the officials that they are coming from Italy. Since they claimed they had no symptoms, they were not screened either,” he said.
A CIAL official has clarified that lack of stamping in the passport from the European Union (EU) countries was another reason for the three-member family comprising a 24-year-old youth and his parents aged 55 and 53 respectively.
“Most European Union countries won’t stamp passport on exit. As the family concealed their travel history, the officials might have thought they were Keralites hailing from West Asia. The family exited straight away from the airport and joined their relatives who were waiting with the taxi car,” said the official.
Screening measures have been beefed up at CIAL.
“Since March 3, we have made the screening mandatory for all international passengers. The universal screening will be announced on every international flight which land at the airport. Besides, a Health Department team has been set up at domestic arrival terminal to assist passengers who show discomfort or symptoms of COVID-19,” said a CIAL official.