The centre on Thursday submitted before the Bombay High Court that only 227 passengers out of the 58,867 Indians, who boarded special flights under Vande Bharat Mission, tested positive for Covid-19, which is 0.38 per cent of the total passengers. The Centre also said that as these cases were revealed during the institutional quarantine period, there was no proof to corroborate whether they had contracted Coronavirus on the flight.
The state-wise details were submitted after the HC on Tuesday had asked Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Air India to provide data of Indians who were not infected while they boarded special flights under the Vande Bharat Mission but tested positive for Covid-19 after landing in India.
After observing the details, the HC sought clarification from expert committee of Civil Aviation Ministry as to whether by mere touch of a Covid-19 infected person the virus can be transmitted to another person so touched. The HC referred to committee’s suggestion that if a person sitting adjacent to another person in flight is provided with protective wrapped around gown, spread of virus by droplets or by touch can be prevented.
A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade on Thursday was hearing, through videoconference, a plea filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani, who alleged that the national carrier had violated social distancing norms while evacuating Indians stranded abroad on the special flights.
Advocate Abhilash Panickar for the petitioner, however, argued that authorities could not provide data as to how many out of 18,896 passengers who arrived in Delhi, Maharashtra and Telangana tested positive for Covid-19 and therefore the percentage of infection is on higher side.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, representing DGCA, had on Tuesday said the special flights had followed all safety and Social Distancing norms to prevent Covid-19 spread. Following a May 25 order by the Supreme Court, DGCA had asked carriers to try to keep the middle seats on flights vacant or provide “wrap-around gowns” to passengers who are allotted such seats.