Five passengers, who flew by a private airliner from Chennai to Salem in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said. Fifty-one people have been quarantined as a result, they said, just days after India resumed limited domestic air travel after a two-month shutdown triggered by COVID-19.
Among the five are a couple who had come for the funeral of a relative. They are being treated at the Government Medical College Hospital in the city, a senior health department official said.
This is the sixth case of air passengers testing positive on landing in Tamil Nadu after flights resumed. Earlier, a passenger on board an IndiGo flight from Chennai to Coimbatore on Monday had tested positive for coronavirus and the airline had grounded the flight's crew for 14 days.
The 23-year-old man was possibly the first case of an air passenger testing positive for coronavirus after domestic flight services resumed on Monday. His flight, officials say had 90 other passengers who have been quarantined as well.
Though only symptomatic passengers are supposed to be tested according to the state government's protocol, all incoming passengers are being tested in Coimbatore and Salem and they are being put in free institutional quarantine for a day till results come.
With the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, Tamil Nadu registered 827 new COVID-19 patients on Thursday, taking the state's tally to 19,372.
Last week, the Tamil Nadu government had urged the centre to defer the resumption of flights till May 31, citing rising cases in Chennai. With the centre standing firm, it managed to put a cap on incoming flights to Chennai at 25.
India had halted all flights within the country in late March as it sought to slow the spread of coronavirus with the world's largest lockdown.
But desperate to get Asia's third-largest economy moving again, the government announced last week that around 1,050 daily flights -- a third of the usual capacity -- would resume on Monday.
Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said strict rules would include mandatory mask-wearing and thermal screenings, although middle seats on the aircraft would not be kept empty.
The announcement reportedly caught airlines and state authorities off-guard, with several local governments announcing that passengers would have to go into quarantine for two weeks on arrival.