30 travelers on an Air India flight from Amritsar to Rome last Wednesday have tested positive on arrival. The entire flight has been quarantined for 10 days, as per Italy’s new rules for travelers from India. This flight is the latest of many carrying multiple positive passengers from India, which is battling a massive second wave of COVID-19.
According to The New Indian Express, at least 30 passengers have tested positive for COVID-19 after arrival in Rome last week. The travelers flew on one of Air India’s repatriation services between Amritsar and Rome. The flight was carrying 242 passengers in total, leaving only four empty seats on the Boeing 787-8.
Sources also say that two of the cases onboard were cabin crew members. These crew members may have spread the virus to other passengers as well, further increasing the risk. All 242 travelers onboard are in quarantine to monitor for any further cases among them.
This was the last flight from India before Italy’s new travel restrictions went into effect. Starting from last Thursday, only Italian residents can enter the country and must complete a 10-day quarantine on arrival. While the Amritsar-Rome flight is technically not covered by this order, authorities opted to quarantine everyone due to the startling number of cases onboard.
These cases are all despite Italy requiring negative tests for all passengers before boarding the flight. This means the 30 cases were despite pre-flight testing for all passengers.
The news of the Rome flight comes just weeks after another flight from India broke the record for positive cases. A Vistara A321neo service from Delhi to Hong Kong carried a shocking 47 positive passengers. The flight forced Hong Kong to ban all flights from India indefinitely, especially seeing the new variants and high cases in India.
This growing number of flights with positive cases has raised questions about the efficacy of pre-flight testing and the epidemiological situation in India. Considering the current rate of cases, it is very possible that many passengers might be testing negative despite carrying the virus. Additionally, the tests themselves may not be sensitive enough to pick up the virus or new variants.
For now, Italy has restricted travel from India to just Italian citizens and residents to reduce new cases. Meanwhile, dozens of other countries have similarly tightened restrictions or even banned flights outright. This includes the US, UK, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and more.
India currently finds itself as the worst-hit country in the world by the virus. The country has recorded over 300,00 daily cases for the last ten days, reaching a peak of 400,000 last week. The healthcare system has been crushed by the new cases, causing shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies. To this end, airlines have been flying in emergency aid to India to boost supplies at this moment of crisis.