More than 15 lakh foreign travelers came to India over the last two months but a "gap in monitoring" by states could "seriously jeopardize" India's efforts to check the spread of coronavirus or COVID-19, the centre has said.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the country's top bureaucrat who is leading the COVID-19 crisis management group, wrote in a sharp letter yesterday to states that there was a gap between the actual monitoring of international passengers for COVID-19 and the total arrivals from abroad.
He stressed that "concerted and sustained action" was needed urgently to ensure that passengers not on the radar are placed under surveillance immediately.
The centre had started screening international passengers at airport from January 18, the letter pointed out. "I have been informed that upto March 23, cumulatively, the Bureau of Immigration has shared details of more than 15 lakh incoming international passengers with states and Union Territories for monitoring COVID-19. However, there appears to be a gap between the number of international passengers who need to be monitored by states and UTs and the actual number of passengers being monitored," Mr Gauba said in his letter.
"This may seriously jeopardise our efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, given that many among people who have tested positive so far in India have a history of international travel. It is important that they are put under close surveillance to prevent the spread of the epidemic," said the Cabinet Secretary.
He added: "I understand that the ministry of health and family welfare has repeatedly emphasized this and requested the states and UTs to take immediate steps in this regard."
India has more than 700 coronavirus cases and 17 persons have died.
There have been instances of people skipping quarantine or hospital visits after returning from abroad. In Punjab, a man who died yesterday, and his two fellow travelers, met hundreds of people after returning from a two-week trip to Germany and Italy. Fifteen Punjab villages have now been sealed.
In Kolkata, a teen who returned from London tested positive after he showed up at the designated hospital two days after his arrival. His mother, a senior bureaucrat, even attended office and meetings in the state government building, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also sits.
The Cabinet Secretary has urged states and Union Territories to involve district authorities to improve tracking.