A pool test on a group of four passengers who arrived in Bengaluru from the United Kingdom (UK) this morning has been found positive for COVID-19, the Karnataka health minister's office has said.
The passengers -- among the 289 on the first flight to land in the city's Kempegowda International Airport after India partly resumed air traffic from UK -- would now be tested individually to ascertain the exact number of flyers with COVID-19.
"The infected person(s) will be traced with further tests and admitted to hospital," a health ministry statement said.
As per protocol, on confirmation of infection, the patient(s)'s swab sample would be sent to the 10-lab consortium INSACOG for genome sequencing to ascertain if the infection was caused by the "more infectious" UK strain of coronavirus.
"Four passengers have been isolated in the airport premises. We are waiting for their reports. All the passengers and crew members are asymptomatic," Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar had told news agency ANI.
All the passengers who arrived in Bengaluru on Sunday were scanned and their swab samples checked for COVID-19 in groups, or pools, of four using RT-PCR tests.
Pool testing is done to reduce the number of RT-PCR tests used; these tests are more accurate and also more expensive.
Flyers' hands were also stamped with words "UK Passenger" along with date of arrival for easy identification, and ensuring they complete the 14-day home quarantine period, as mandated.
As per norms, UK passengers and other international travellers who test positive, irrespective of the strain, will be isolated in single-room facilities and treated for COVID-19 by the government.
Till now, India has 90 cases of COVID-19 caused by the UK coronavirus strain. All cases with mutant strain have been detected in flyers from that country and their contacts. They are all in single-room institutional quarantine centres and are recovering.
With each flight from the United Kingdom (UK) reported to be carrying passengers to capacity, Karnataka Health Minister Dr Sudhaklar had reviewed arrangements on Saturday to avoid chaos.
On Sunday, visuals of orderly lines of passengers maintaining social distancing while being screened and tested at the Bengaluru airport were in sharp contrast to the chaos that unfolded at the Delhi international airport on January 8.
Change of isolation rules for UK returnees to Delhi, including 7-day institutional quarantine even for those who test negative, and long waiting time for Covid test results led to a heated exchange between airport staff and the passengers.
The additional measures were announced by the Delhi government after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the centre against resuming air travel with the UK.
On January 6, airlines from India and UK were allowed 15 flights each to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad.
Strict testing and tracing measures are being taken to ensure the UK strain of coronavirus does not enter the community through the passengers who may be potentially infected.
The UK strain has overwhelmed health systems in Britain, led to increased deaths and forced the country's government to impose the most strict lockdown yet.
India has a total of 1.04 crore Covid cases, 1.5 related deaths and over 1 crore recoveries.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a press release)