Hong Kong announced a third suspension against Air India after Indian travellers accounted for most of Hong Kong’s 17 new infections on Saturday (‘Coronavirus: Hong Kong urged to curb inbound travel from India as nation linked to most of city’s 17 new Covid-19 cases‘, 17 Oct). All of Saturday’s confirmed infections in Hong Kong were imported, 11 of them arriving from India.
This is the third time Hong Kong has banned the Indian national carrier. Previously, Hong Kong barred Air India from running the Delhi-Hong Kong services from August 18 to 31, and September 20 to October 3.
Hong Kong has a standing policy of imposing a 14-day ban on any airline that carries five or more COVID-19 positive passengers, or operates two consecutive flights with three or more infected passengers.
Hong Kong currently requires travellers from India to present a negative PCR test result for COVID-19 before boarding a flight to Hong Kong. But with the constant stream of infected travellers arriving in Hong Kong from India, the Hong Kong officials are facing calls to further tighten rules on travellers coming from there.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong health experts are raising questions over the reliability of testing in India. Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a Hong Kong government adviser said that there could be inaccuracies with the tests conducted in India. “It remains unclear with the reliability and sources of the tests there,” he said.
“If the technique for obtaining the specimen was not up-to-standard, the test result could also be affected too.”
Dr Leung Chi-chiu, a specialist in respiratory medicine, also suspected that there are problems with how testing was being performed in India. “If the repeated imposition of travel bans is not working, [the government] might need to consider tightening the measures,” Dr Leung said.
Dr Leung also suggested extending the length of the flight suspension from two weeks to four.
There have also been reports of fake COVID-19 certificates appearing in India recently (‘Indian Fake COVID-19 certificates appearing in India‘).
Some of the government public hospitals in India are alleged to have been involved in rackets selling fake COVID-19 certificates to their citizens, certifying them to be COVID-19 free. The matter came to light when a government doctor was caught issuing the fake COVID-19 certificates for money.
India has the world’s second highest number of COVID-19 cases, with its daily tally of new infections ranging from about 55,000 to more than 70,000 over the past week.