More than 50 passengers on a flight from Delhi to Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus despite having reportedly been cleared with negative test results before boarding.
On an April 3 flight run by Indian airline Vistara on a plane that was “packed almost to capacity,” according to The Wall Street Journal, more than one third of the passengers turned up testing positive for COVID-19 while they were under a mandatory three-week quarantine upon arrival in Hong Kong.
Though authorities in Hong Kong would reportedly not disclose how many passengers were on the plane, which can hold up to 188 people, it was reported that at least 52 people had tested positive for the virus, according to the Daily Mail.
Rashida Fathima spoke to the Wall Street Journal from a hospital, saying she and her husband and two children tested positive for COVID-19 after boarding the flight, though they wore masks and avoided using the restroom on board.
“Some passengers — including one in the same row — coughed repeatedly during the six-hour flight, people took masks off to eat, and some parents walked their crying children up and down the aisle, she said,” the Journal reported.
All of the passengers reportedly presented a negative test, taken within 72 hours of departure, as required for travel. The number who ended up testing positive for the virus exceeds the number of daily new infections being recorded in Hong Kong, which reportedly successfully battled a fourth wave of infections at the beginning of this year, according to the Daily Mail.
47 passengers on Vistara flight UK6395 from New Delhi to Hong Kong on April 4th have now tested positive for COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/Mb4wCEPMPl
— Aaron is Bubble Bound 🤞 🇭🇰 (@tripperhead) April 18, 2021
“We’re shocked by this,” Poonam Nanda, director of Nanda Travel, said. “This one flight appears to be an astonishing outlier and we are all confounded by these numbers.”
India has been struggling to battle the spike in infections, and imposed a seven-day lockdown beginning in the capital, New Delhi.
An epidemiologist at the Federation of American Scientists noted that all of the positive cases except for eight were found during the hotel quarantines.
“If it weren’t for hotel quarantine – [Hong Kong] would have completely allowed these [positive cases] to begin spreading in the community!” Eric Feigl-Dinghe said in a series of tweets last week. “This is why border quarantines are critical.”
✈️ Outbreak—47 positive #COVID19 of a 188 seat Vistara flight from New Delhi to Hong Kong have tested positive, after all tested negative 72 hours prior. The scariest thing? Only 8 detected before began quarantine. 39 only identified later during hotel quarantine, 22 at day 12!🧵 pic.twitter.com/TTkBetdHrH
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) April 19, 2021
“Even more scary detail, of the 47 cases, 22 of the cases were only discovered on day **12** of the hotel quarantine testing!!!” he added. “Ummm, what if—14 days might not be enough to find and block all border entry?”
4) to be clear, it possible not all transmission occurred during the flight. Some may have occurred after the initial 72 hour pre departure time window after they got tested. India cases increased 60% each week for the last 2 weeks. But this is why our border testing is leaky. pic.twitter.com/7aGsVLqQ6a
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) April 19, 2021
“India recorded 2,812 Covid deaths overnight and infections in the last 24 hours rose to 352,991 on Monday – a record peak and a new global high for a fifth day running,” Daily Mail reported, noting that it was unknown how many – or if any – of the passengers on the flight had received the coronavirus vaccine and that “less then five per cent of India’s population had received at least one dose of the jab” at the time of the flight.
“Experts say the second wave will peak in May at up to 500,000 deaths a day, meaning around 5,000 people could die every day at the current case fatality ratio of 1.14%,” the outlet added.
The Toronto Sun reported in March that “data provided by Health Canada reveals nearly all of the twice-daily flights between Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and Toronto Pearson Airport carried passengers infected with COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, all flights from India, Pakistan and Philippines have been banned by Hong Kong from April 20 to May 3 due to the reported detection of a mutant COVID strain.
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