New Delhi: Seven passengers who travelled from Delhi to Auckland in New Zealand on Sunday on an Air India flight have tested positive for COVID-19 three days after their arrival, a senior government official said on Friday.
Earlier this month, all Air India passenger flights were barred from landing in Hong Kong till August-end after 14 passengers on its Delhi-Hong Kong flight of August 14 tested positive for COVID-19 post arrival.
"Seven passengers on Sunday's Air India Delhi-Auckland flight have tested positive for COVID-19 three days after arrival," the government official said.
In response to PTI's request for a statement on this matter, Air India said, "We would not like to make any comment on the issue at this stage."
While scheduled international passenger flights remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic, special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission and bilateral air bubble pacts formed between India and various countries.
At a daily press briefing at Auckland on Friday, New Zealand's Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay said, "There are five new confirmed community cases of COVID-19 to report and seven imported cases giving us a total of 12 new cases."
The seven imported cases all arrived on the same flight on August 23 and tested positive on their day-three tests, she stated.
"These people will be transferred to the quarantine facility at Jet Park hotel in Auckland," she added.
These people have "travelled from a country that has a high incidence of COVID-19 so it is highly likely that they have been undetected case before they got on the plane", she noted.
Along with McElnay, New Zealand's Finance Minister Grant Robertson was also present at the press briefing in Auckland.
When asked what country the passengers were from, Robertson told reporters, "I don't want to say what country because I don't know what country each traveller was from, the flight was an Air India flight, but that does not mean that the people who came on that flight are necessarily from India. They are all people who are entitled to be in New Zealand."
A record single-day spike of 77,266 COVID-19 cases pushed India's virus tally to 33,87,500, while the recoveries surged to 25,83,948 on Friday, according to Union Health Ministry data.
The death toll climbed to 61,529 with 1,057 people succumbing to the diseases in a span of 24 hours, the data updated at 8 am showed.
In a statement to PTI on August 21, a spokesperson of the Department of Health of the Hong Kong government said, "A flight operated by Air India (AI314) arriving Hong Kong from India on August 14 had 11 passengers confirmed to have infected with COVID-19."
As a result, the department invoked the "Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H) on August 17 to prohibit landing of passenger flights operated by Air India for two weeks from August 18 to 31 in Hong Kong", the spokesperson noted.
"As of August 20, a total of 14 passengers on that flight were confirmed to have infected with COVID-19," he added.