Failure of states to monitor foreign returnees may jeopardise war against COVID-19: Centre

Cabinet secy points to gap between number of passengers and those being monitored

airport-security corona pti A medic uses a thermal-screening device on a passenger in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, at an airport in Dibrugarh, Assam | PTI

The Centre has slammed the state governments over the failure to monitor Indian citizens who have returned from abroad and said that this lapse would “seriously jeopardise” attempts to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In a scathing letter, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba , on Thursday, pointed out to state chief secretaries that there is a gap between the number of passengers who have returned to India from abroad and those that are being monitored for COVID-19.

“There appears to be a gap in the number of passengers who need to be monitored by the states and Union territories and the actual number of passengers being monitored,” the letter from the cabinet secretary stated.

“This may seriously jeopardise our efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, given that many amongst the people who have tested positive for Covid-19 so far in India have a history of international travel,” the letter noted.

While the letter did not mention the total number of passengers who are being monitored, it mentioned that according to Union home ministry’s Bureau of Immigration, there are “more than 15 lakh incoming international passengers with the States/UTs for monitoring for COVID-19,” the letter said.

India began screening passengers from abroad on January 18. The warning by Gauba assumes significance in the wake of the Centre repeatedly asserting that there is no evidence to suggest “community transmission” of the pandemic. Most of these who have been tested positive for the disease either have foreign travel history or have come into contact with people who have travelled abroad.

“I understand that the ministry of health has repeatedly emphasised this and requested the states and UTs to take immediate steps in this regard. I would therefore like to request to ensure that concerted and sustained action is taken urgently to put such passengers under surveillance immediately as per MOHFW guidelines,” the letter from the cabinet secretary further stated.

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