The Centre, on March 27, wrote to all states and Union Territories (UTs), flagging "gaps" in screening of Indians who returned after travelling abroad, in the past two months.
Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, in a letter addressed to states and UTs, said, "There appears to be a gap between the number of international passengers who need to be monitored by the states/UTs and the actual number of passengers being monitored."
He pointed out that screening of all international incoming passengers at airports was initiated with effect from January 18, 2020.
"I have been informed that upto March 23, 2020, cumulatively, Bureau of Immigration has shared details of more than 15 lakh incoming international passengers with the states/UTs for monitoring for COVID-19," the cabinet secretary noted in his letter while flagging a gap between the number of international travellers being monitored.
Gauba emphasised that such a discrepancy could "seriously jeopardise" the country's efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, especially since many among those, who have tested positive for the infection in India so far, have had a history of international travel.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Gauba sought district authorities to take "concerted and sustained action" urgently to put "such passengers under surveillance immediately" as per the guidelines of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has extended the suspension of scheduled international passenger services until April 14 midnight. International flights into India were earlier barred till March 31 to contain the spread of COVID-19.