Marked by overcrowding, mismanagement and 14-hour delays, the process of screening for coronavirus at Delhi’s international airport may well pose an increased health risk for passengers entering the country, according to interviews conducted by Mint.
Passengers, who were made to go through thermal screening at the arrival hall, followed by immigration formalities. accused authorities, especially at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (Terminal-3), of and failing to segregate those symptomatic of the virus, from those who are not showing symptoms.
Things have reached a stage where passengers are refusing to go to quarantine centres in Gurgaon, Dwarka and Pataudi. They alleged that they were being housed in facilities, comprising 30 beds in a single room, without food or water, and with those who showed symptoms of Covid-19.
“We landed at IGI on 15 March at 9.15am. Upon landing, we were checked for fever. Some other passengers from other flights came back for a second check because they had fever and other symptoms. The police took our passports and the filled out self-declaration forms and told us to wait," said Shoba Krishnan, who was on an Air India flight from Frankfurt with her husband.
“After about three hours, the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) called our names and took us to a hall with about 400 people. We were called for immigration and our passports were still not returned. We were asked to collect our bags and wait. All this time, people who had symptoms were with us." The passengers were then herdedinto buses and Krishnan and her husband were taken to the quarantine facility at Pataudi—10 hours after arrival. “The bathrooms and wards were dirty, and both the infected and the healthy were quarantined together in the same dormitory," she alleged.
Passengers said while they were keen to be tested, having come from affected countries, the process was a non-starter due to the unavailability of trained medical staff at the airport and quarantine centres.
So much so that passengers have now begun opting out of government-run quarantine facilities. “The entire process stretched from 9.30am to 1am at night and only one bottle of water, a sandwich and juice was given to us. Our passports were not returned till late at night," said Divyanshu Joshi, a passenger from Germany.
The authorities, however, denied passengers’ allegations. “Operations at Delhi Airport are going on smoothly.We will not be able to comment on the quarantine zone as it is handling by the Airport Health Organization (APHO)," said a DIAL spokesperson. The APHO did not respond to Mint’s queries .
Rhik Kundu contributed to this story.