Omicron scare: Odisha govt on toes to track 380 foreign returnees

Two foreign returnees - one from Togo and the other from Sri Lanka who landed on Tuesday –tested negative.

Published: 02nd December 2021 09:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd December 2021 09:06 AM   |  A+A-

A woman passenger shows her stamped hand as she exits Bhubaneswar airport after arriving from Bengaluru

A woman passenger shows her stamped hand as she exits Bhubaneswar airport after arriving from Bengaluru. (File Photo | Biswanath Swain, EPS)

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Around 380 foreign returnees have landed in Odisha after the World Health Organisation announced Omicron a ‘variant of concern’ but the Health and Family Welfare department is yet to gather information about their travel history and details of those who flew in from ‘at risk’ countries.

While states like Maharashtra have issued fresh guidelines asking all international passengers to furnish details of countries they have travelled to and domestic passengers to carry RT-PCR negative report, absence of whereabouts of 380 returnees has put officials in-charge of Covid management here in a tight spot.

Two foreign returnees - one from Togo and the other from Sri Lanka who landed on Tuesday –tested negative. “From the Centre, we received a list of 380 people who returned to the State in the last few days. The list does not, however, have any information about the countries they travelled from and their local addresses,” said a senior health official.

The Odisha government has now moved the Union Health Ministry seeking access to Air Suvidha portal with filtration facility so that they can get details of foreign returnees easily. “The only possibility is to get the travel history of a passenger from his/her self declaration form available in the portal. Once we get access, it will be easier for us to track the returnees,” the official sources said.         

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has released a list of countries ‘at risk’ from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in the country including post-arrival testing. These include European countries including United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. Although the State government has made RT-PCR and quarantine mandatory for all foreign returnees, the Health department is yet to formally notify its detailed guidelines for air travellers despite the risks posed by the new variant. 

Last year, a number of foreign returnees became incommunicado to avoid testing and remained untraceable for days together. The administration failed to contact them through contact numbers shared in the self declaration form as those were found switched off. 

“It seems the State administration has not learnt from the previous mistakes. All efforts will prove futile once the returnees leave airport or railway station and come in contact with others before they test negative,” said health experts. Additional Chief Secretary of Health RK Sharma could not be contacted.


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