KOLKATA: There was high drama at Kolkata airport on Friday when a passenger who had popped a paracetamol to suppress his fever before entering the airport fell ill while waiting for a flight and then tried to bolt when airport officials told him he would be quarantined at a state facility.
Flyers who were about to enter the airport were shocked to see the fleeing youth, with CISF jawans and health workers in full protective gear giving chase down the exit ramp before he was finally nabbed with the help of local cops.
The incident comes barely two days after an asymptomatic man had flown into Kolkata airport from Delhi via Guwahati with a Covid-positive report in his pocket. It was only when he insisted on a government quarantine facility while exiting the terminal that the fact came tumbling out. Last month, too, two Covid-positive engineers had travelled from Chennai to Kolkata without disclosing their condition.
On Friday, the 26-year-old from Nadia’s Shantipur arrived at the airport with four colleagues at 7am. They were heading to Coimbatore via Bengaluru. He cleared the thermal test at the terminal entrance, as the paracetamol had pushed down his temperature. The self-declaration statement submitted on Aarogya Setu app and during web check-in claimed he was fit and under no risk of contamination.
It was while waiting for the flight, scheduled to depart at 9.45am, that he suddenly fell ill. He had completed security checks and was seated in the security hold area when he began experiencing respiratory distress, followed by chest pain.
CISF and airline staff were the first respondents. When they checked his body temperature with a thermal gun, it recorded 100°F. Realising he could be suffering from Covid, the passenger was escorted to the airport’s medical unit. There, he confessed to the doctor that he had been suffering for fever for the past two days and had taken paracetamol to travel without detection. Learning about his condition, airport officials called state health department personnel who inspected his condition and then started completing the formalities for his transfer to the Covid facility in New Town. That is when the youth became twitchy.
While the men were busy with paperwork, he slipped out of the barricaded section and exited the terminal from gate no. 1A/ 1B. Realising he had gone missing, the PPE-clad health workers gave chase, as did CISF jawans in uniform. Had it been in the pre-Covid days, the man on the run could easily have been intercepted by others. But spotting the men in PPE in hot pursuit, everyone jumped out of the way, fearing infection.
Running down the exit ramp, the jawans gained ground. The commotion also attracted local cops posted near the airport entrance, who converged from the other end to trap the youth. He was then escorted back to the terminal like a VVIP, surrounded by cops, CISF personnel and health workers. He was then packed into an ambulance and sent to the quarantine centre.
Commenting on the back-to-back incidents of flyers trying to camouflage their Covid status or symptoms to travel and risk co-passengers, airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee urged people to be honest. “The current standard operating procedure is solely dependent on self-declaration on part of a passenger because the thermal detection isn’t fool-proof. If a passenger hides the truth, there is no way of finding out. Each of us has to behave responsibly and disclose our actual condition and travel history for everyone’s sake,” said Bhattacharjee.