Fill up a form: that was my swine flu screening

May 12th, 2009 - 10:04 am ICT by IANS  

By Arpana
New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) As the Hong Kong-Delhi flight prepared to land, I was apprehensive about the screening for swine flu. But all that happened was that I was asked to fill up a form, and no one checked if I was stating the truth.

Hong Kong newspapers had reported last Friday that a 25-year-old Mexican visitor had tested positive for the influenza A/H1N1. It led to a series of emergency measures by Hong Kong authorities, including the immediate quarantine of everybody in the hotel where the visitor was staying.

That meant Hong Kong was one of the countries affected by swine flu.

As about 100 passengers got out of the Air India flight at the capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) over the weekend, we could hear an announcement: all passengers should report to the health desk. So that was what we did, everyone expecting to spend a long time at the desk, being examined by the men in white lab coats and masks we could see sitting there.

But at the desk, all the passengers were just asked to fill up a form stating which country they were coming from, the flight details and whether they were suffering from any swine flu symptoms.

Then the passengers submitted the forms at the desk. No doctor checked any passenger, not even one who clearly had a cold. The men at the desk just stamped the forms - and that was it.

“What can we do if the doctors don’t screen passengers?” asked Arun Arora, associate vice president of Delhi International Airport Limited, which operates IGIA. “Our role is limited to providing logistic support. We have done all that was required.”

A spokesperson of India’s health ministry admitted that not every passenger is screened physically. “We haven’t received complaints of negligence by our doctors deputed at airports or at other points to screen passengers coming from outside the country,” he added.

The health ministry spokesperson said so far 340,000 people coming from swine flu-affected countries had been screened, adding that 180 doctors and 102 paramedics have been deployed to man 72 counters at 21 airports in India - Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Calicut, Chennai, Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Varanasi, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Srinagar, Trichy and Thiruvananthapuram.

(Arpana can be contacted at arpana.s@ians.in)

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