An RTI reply from the Government revealed that in India between January 15 and March 23, only 19 per-cent of international passengers were screened for COVID-19.
India began universal screening on March 4 and it shut all air travel on March 23, after 2 months India saw its first case of COVID-19 i.e. on January 30. The nationwide lockdown was imposed by the country on March 25.
According to The Print, some experts have told them that India could have stopped its spike in the number of cases had it shut down the air travel earlier.
According to the data from DGCA between January 15 and March 23, 78.4 lakh passengers arrived in India in which over 15 lakh passengers were screened, the RTI replied.
The RTI reply also said that in the period between 15 January and 23 March, outgoing international passengers and domestic passengers were also not screened.
Dr S.K. Sadhukhan, professor of epidemiology, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata said that cases in India spiked because of free-for-all travel and it could have been curbed if India had cut off the international travel for at least six months.
On 25 April, the WHO had lauded India’s response to the pandemic saying the government’s actions managed to prevent an exponential growth of infections. But it highlighted that a lot of cases came in from Europe in late February.
“A lot of people who came back from Europe brought in later waves of infections in late Feb-March, and then there were too many contacts,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan had said on Off The Cuff.
“Our strongest tool always is widespread screening. In hindsight, we can say we should have screened passengers from Europe since many cases were coming from there but apart from South Korea and Taiwan, no other country had started large scale screening. India widely responded to WHO directives and guidelines,” said Dr Preeti Kumar, vice president, health systems support, Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi.