30 Indians airlifted under Vande Bharat Mission tested COVID-19 positive: Air India tells Bombay HC

The Air India on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that only 0.03 per cent of the nearly 1000 brought back to the country, under the Vande Bharat Mission, have tested positive. It has further told the HC that there is no proof that these 30 Indians stranded overseas have tested positive, due to the airline or the airport authority.

A bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Surendra Tavade was hearing a petition filed by Deven Kanani, an Air India pilot seeking directives to the government and other aviation authorities to leave a seat vacant between two passengers.

The bench had earlier this week, ordered the authorities to spell out the exact number of passengers, who tested positive after being airlifted under the Vande Bharat Mission, as no middle seat was left vacant.

On Thursday, Kanani through his counsel made an oral submission that over 36 per cent of passengers, i.e. 360 persons have tested positive. He claimed that this could be because of the fact that no middle seat was left vacant, while airlifting them.

Opposing the contention, the counsel appearing for Air India told the bench that only 0.03 per cent of the passengers have tested positive. "We have orally informed the bench that only 0.03 per cent of passengers have tested positive. That too, there is no direct proof that they got afflicted on the airline or the airport," confirmed Kavita Anchan, counsel for Air India.

"There are many a passengers, who tested positive after the quarantine period, which is much after being airlifted. Thus, there is no proof as such," Anchan told FPJ.

Meanwhile, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) filed a report, prepared by an Expert Committee, under the chairmanship of the Secretary,

Civil Aviation. The report was prepared in a meeting held to review and further strengthen the public health related protocols of air travel.

"The physical distance between two persons helps in minimizing the transmission through an inadvertent touch. It was also suggested that if the person sitting adjacent to another person is provided with a protective suit (like a gown covering the upper part of the body and gloves), this can also be very good means of preventing the spread of virus either by droplets or by touch," the report stated.

"The Committee felt that providing protective gowns to intervening passengers, who are seated between two persons, would also minimise the risk of transmission through an inadvertent touch while in the aircraft or while boarding or alighting," it added.

Having perused the report, the bench sought a clarification from the committee on a few issues. "We seek clarifcation from the Expert Committee as to whether by a mere touch of a person carrying COVID-19 virus, the virus can be transmitted to the person so touched," Justice Kathawalla said while posting the matter for further hearing on Friday.

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