Mumbai: Fliers from Coronavirus epicentres walking home free

Updated: Mar 17, 2020, 08:59 IST | Faizan Khan | Mumbai

A traveller who landed in Mumbai from Iran's Qom and another who arrived from Germany slam the poor screening measures at airport and negligence in hospitals

Ali Abbas, traveller from Iran
Ali Abbas, traveller from Iran

Amid mixed reports about India's response to the Coronavirus outbreak, a man who landed from Iran early on Monday morning, walked out of the Mumbai airport without being screened. Ali Abbas, 57, stayed for 20 days in Qom, where Iran's first case was recorded. However, Abbas told mid-day that he was not screened even for body temperature at the airport and has now reached his residence in the city.

Around 2 am on Monday, Abbas landed from Tehran airport via Doha. "I boarded a Qatar Airways flight from Tehran and landed at Mumbai Airport via Doha. The flight was full of passengers - eight from Iran. When I reached Mumbai, there was a heavy rush at the airport and nobody checked me; not even my body temperature was noted. I met the authorities at the airport and explained my travel history. But I was surprised at the way I was treated," said Abbas, adding, "I easily walked out of the airport and reached home. As a precautionary measure, I have self-isolated myself currently."

People wearing masks at the international airport on Monday. Pic/Anurag Ahire
People wearing masks at the international airport on Monday. Pic/Anurag Ahire

The government of India on March 9 had announced that Indian citizens entering India from seven Coronavirus-affected countries will be quarantined for 14 days. The seven countries include Iran from where Abbas returned. The other countries are China, Italy, the Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany.

Abbas, however, said that he has no symptoms as of now. But he made a visit to Kasturba hospital after his return. "There was a long queue with people standing close to each other. It was really scary to stand in the queue with people who may have been infected with the deadly virus. I was shocked that there were no proper arrangements made."

Gaurav Suralkar, traveller from Germany
Gaurav Suralkar, traveller from Germany

No quarantine instructions
For 35-year-old Gaurav Suralkar too, it was a similar story. He landed from Germany on Sunday but is already a free man today. Though Suralkar was taken to Seven Hills hospital upon landing at Mumbai airport, the authorities only noted a brief history about him and asked him to go home.

"I landed from Germany by an Air India flight. There were around 250 passengers and we were taken to Seven Hills hospital directly where there was a long queue. The doctors were not even taking down proper history of the patients. They only asked me about symptoms, took a small history and asked me to go home without giving any quarantine instructions," said Sarulkar. "I was worried and to be doubly sure, I went to Kasturba Hospital on Monday to get myself checked but there was a long queue and I couldn't do anything so returned home," he added.

Akash Jadhav, traveller from Indonesia
Akash Jadhav, traveller from Indonesia

The facilities at these hospitals are not up to mark too. Travellers said that there are no separate rooms for self-quarantine. "The beds at Seven Hills hospital where arrangements have been made by the government are next to each other. There are no separate rooms as required for self-quarantine. If anyone is tested positive, the chances of others getting infected are higher. The place is unhygienic, no food was available for people who have been quarantined there."

Family not tested at Kasturba
Thane resident Akash Jadhav, 28, landed in Mumbai along with his daughters on February 22 from Indonesia. He claimed that he along with his daughters aged five and three were not screened at the airport. He went home but when his daughters had symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough, cold and fever, he visited Kasturba hospital on Sunday. But none of them were tested at the hospital as the authorities cited that people with recent travel history are being tested right now.

"My daughters are still not well and I have home quarantined myself and my daughters. I sought help from Maharashtra health minister on Twitter but did not receive any reply or help," said Jadhav, a businessman. He added, "Since the response is very poor from the hospital and the people concerned, I didn't go to Kasturba Hospital again. I will only follow up with my family doctors now."

Feb 22
Day Jadhav returned from Indonesia with his two daughters

March 9
GoI announced that Indian citizens entering India from Coronavirus-affected countries will be quarantined for 14 days

No. of countries travellers are screened from

(With inputs from Samiullah Khan)

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