KATHMANDU, Feb 4: Although the government has set up a health desk at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to prevent possible entry of the coronavirus into Nepal, the passengers of an aircraft which landed in Kathmandu from China on Monday were not screened before leaving the airport.
Passengers on board the Himalaya Airlines flight, which landed at TIA at 3.01 am Monday, were not screened at the health desk as no health official was present at the desk, said one passenger requesting anonymity.
Flight H9666 originated from Beijing's Daxing International Airport .
“There were no officials at the health desk. Other officials present at the airport didn't ask the passengers to go through the health desk,” the passenger told Republica, adding that they only went through the immigration desk.
The passenger was surprised that no health officials checked them . “Before boarding the aircraft in Beijing, they were checked multiple times . They were checked for body temperature after boarding the plane also,” said the passenger, who estimates that there were more than 100 passengers on board .
The passenger also said that there were nearly 10 Chinese nationals in the plane.
As there were no officials at the TIA health desk, all the passengers left the airport without any health check. “This is sheer negligence on the part of government authorities at a time when there is a serious risk of a coronavirus outbreak,” said another passenger, adding that health officials should have been present at the health desk at all times.
“I am astounded that the government seems to be taking the matter so lightly. We [passengers] were asked to fill out a form at the Beijing airport, and our body temperatures were also screened multiple times,” the passenger said. Officials at the Beijing airport suspected that some Chinese passengers were infected with the coronavirus and they were taken directly to hospital , he said.
“ I mentioned that the flight had come from China, but airport officials took the matter lightly. I wanted the passengers to be duly screened, but they did not take me seriously and allowed us to leave the airport without any screening,” he further said.
The officials asked off-handedly about the coronavirus situation in China. “How is the coronavirus epidemic in China? Is everything alright?” the passenger quoted an official at TIA as saying.
While setting up the airport health desk, the government had said that suspected passengers would be referred to Shukraraaj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital at Teku.
When asked about the negligence at the health desk, Mahendra Bahadur Shrestha, spokesperson at the Ministry of Health and Population, said he was unaware of the lapse.
“Health officials should be present at the desk round the clock. Passengers should go through a screening process before leaving the airport,” he said, adding that the ministry is serious about this and will take action against irresponsible officials.
More than a week ago, a Nepali student who returned from Wuhan in China tested positive for coronavirus. As of Monday, the virus has killed more than 350 persons, and has been found in at least 24 countries.