Bengaluru: In a major scare and embarrassment for the Karnataka government, 10 people who had come from South Africa after the outbreak of Omicron variant managed to escape the mandatory testing at the airport and have gone ‘missing.’ The government also admitted that the first Omicron patient in India -- a South African -- who tested positive for the new variant managed to escape in the dead of night to Dubai.
The 10 people labelled "missing" have switched off their phones and cannot be contacted.
These passengers managed to hoodwink the authorities, thumbing their nose at the ‘strict’ checking protocols put in place at the Bengaluru International Airport.
The government is clueless how the passengers managed to escape testing, but a red-faced Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar said these passengers would be traced by tonight.
The Chief Minister called for a top-level meeting to assess the situation. "By tonight all 10 people who have reportedly gone missing should be traced and they should be tested. Travelers will not be allowed to leave the airport until their report is out," Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashok said after the meeting on Omicron.
Reports indicated that the first Omicron case, a 66-year-old South African national, "escaped" to Dubai after taking a Covid negative certificate from a private lab, the state government said Friday. The man had arrived on November 20 from South Africa and left for Dubai seven days later. "We've lodged a complaint with the police and they will see what went wrong at the Shangri-La hotel, from where the person escaped," Ashoka said.
Over 50 others who arrived around the same time will be tested, even though they all produced negative RT-PCR tests on arrival. "All will now be tested because one of them tested positive for Omicron even after showing a negative Covid test," said the minister.
The South African had taken two doses of vaccination and checked into the hotel the day he arrived. When a government doctor visited him at the hotel, he was found to be asymptomatic and was advised to self-isolate. Since he was from one of the nations designated "at-risk", his samples were collected again and sent for genome sequencing on November 22.
On November 23, the man took another test at a private lab and the result came back negative. On November 27, around midnight, he checked out of the hotel, took a cab to the airport and boarded a flight to Dubai. The genome sequencing later revealed that he had the Omicron variant.
Twenty-four people who came in contact with him were tested and found to be negative. The authorities also tested 240 secondary contacts - people who had come in contact with the primary contacts of the patent - and found them to be negative as well.
Meanwhile, after the first case of Omicron variant was found in Bengaluru, the Karnataka government Friday revised its guidelines and imposed restrictions on the non-vaccinated population from visiting certain public places.
Entry to malls, cinema halls and theatres shall be allowed only to persons who are vaccinated with two doses of Covid-19 vaccines. The order issued by Tushar Giri Nath, Principal Secretary, Revenue Department and member secretary of the State Executive Committee, also asked all educational institutions to postpone cultural activities, fests and functions till January 15, 2022.
“It is reiterated that there shall be strict implementation of a five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccination and enforcing adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour. It is emphasised that all gatherings, meetings, conferences, etc, should strictly limit the number of participants to 500 people only and Covid appropriate behaviour shall be strictly enforced during the events, the responsibility to enforce the same lies with the organisers,” the order said.
“Parents of children below 18 years who are going to schools and college should be compulsorily vaccinated with two doses of Covid vaccine. Compulsory testing of health workers, old persons above 65 years and persons with comorbidities will be undertaken by the government,” the order said, adding that all government employees should get vaccinated with both the doses of the Covid-19 vaccines.