Coronavirus update in India: PM Modi says India began screening international passengers in January; Twitter cries foul
Photo: CSMIA/Twitter video screengrab

The coronavirus has so far affected over 169,000 people in more than 135 countries and territories, and claimed over 6,500 lives. In India, the death toll stands at two, while the number of people who have tested positive is now 113.

On Sunday, in a meeting with other SAARC countries, Prime Minister Modi said that India has begun its screening process early -- from January 17 -- in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

"We started screening entry into India from mid-January itself, while also gradually increasing restrictions on travel," he said at the meeting. The Prime Minister opined that the "step-by-step approach" had helped avoid panic.

Netizens however were quick to point out that they had not faced a screening while travelling to India from foreign destinations, even till March.

"All through till March, I wasn't asked where I was coming from. I flew in from Oman, which had active cases of the virus and I still wasn't stopped," narrated one Twitter user.

"This is not true. I got to India in March and there was zero screening," added another user.

A Mumbai International Airport Limited spokesperson however told The Free Press Journal that screening had indeed started from January 17, as per government directives.

However, while it begun in mid-January, it had been country specific at the time.

"The screening process began gradually. Beginning with China and Hong Kong, the airport gradually added more countries to the list over time, as per official directives," the spokesperson said.

The screening process, the spokesperson added, was being conducted entirely by the APHO at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.

"Per the order of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as well as the Ministry of Civil Aviation, they have been screening since the 17th," the official reiterated.

Since then, as the government added more countries to the list, the screening process was expanded to include those nations. In Mumbai, the screening process takes place in the international terminal itself.

"We have now built to universal screening. Anyone arriving from any international destination is now being screened," the spokesperson added.

The airport posts a daily update on its official Twitter handle about the number of people screened that day.

While this is just one airport out of many where screening is supposed to take place, it does appear to support the Prime Minister's statement.

But the claims of laxity cannot be dismissed quite so easily as these are, in most cases, personal experiences of commuters.

While the checks in January, being limited to a rather small number of countries could have missed out on other passengers, it must be remembered that a mandatory screening was put in place for all international passengers this month -- from March 4th to be precise.

In the first week of March, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had stated that universal screening of all international incoming passengers had begun at Indian airports.

Those narrating their experiences however claimed that even recently, they had not faced a proper screening process upon arrival.

"All through till March, I wasn't asked where I was coming from. I flew in from Oman, which had active cases of the virus and I still wasn't stopped," wrote one user.

"Your screening at the airport is only half done. I was not tested for anything and I flew to India on 5th March and no one took my thermals and gave me a form to fill without seeing what I fill in it and stamped it," recalled another.

"I landed on Feb 23. There was zero screening at the Delhi Int'l airport," said one user.

"My daughter landed from Amsterdam on 21-22 st Feb ,There was no checking on #CSIABombay," wrote another.

"I arrived on 23rd February 2020. There was no screening nor any forms except for a inflight announcement which said please report to to authorities if you have flu like symptoms," recalled one individual.

"Which Airport? I returned from UAE on Feb 25 in Mumbai Airport and there was screening for flights from several countries, UAE wasn't part of that though. Nor Italy but they were added once 14 Italian cases was identified," wrote another.

Take a look at some of the other comments:

There are also comments to the contrary.

Prime Minister Modi on Monday took to Twitter to respond to a post that lavished praise on airport authorities for their "vigilant" and "systematic" screening efforts.

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