Second Australian dies from coronavirus in India

·3-min read

Businessman Govind Kant has become the second Australian to die from COVID-19 in India.

Trina Solar said in a statement on Tuesday the company's manager for Australia had died on May 16 at a hospital in Delhi after contracting the virus at the end of April.

He had returned to India for family reasons earlier in the month.

"Our deepest condolences go to his wife, two daughters and other family members," the company said.

"This is a significant loss to Trina Solar and mere words cannot express the heartfelt sorrow we all feel upon Govind's passing and we will provide necessary assistance to his family in this mourn period and we pray his soul may rest in peace."

It followed the death in India of an Australian permanent resident earlier in the month.

India is consistently recording around 4,000 deaths a day from Covid-19. Source: Getty, file.
India is consistently recording around 4,000 deaths a day from Covid-19. Source: Getty, file.

Qantas rules out testing errors for rejected passengers

Meanwhile, a review of pre-flight test results for the first post-pause India repatriation flight has validated the results given to passengers.

More than 40 people who tested positive pre-flight along with about 30 of their close contacts were barred from returning on Saturday.

But concerns have been raised that some passengers were barred from the flight due to false positive tests.

Qantas said all of the positive test results were re-run over the weekend under additional medical supervision, and the outcomes were the same.

This included some weak positives that may have been interpreted as negative results by other laboratories.

The passengers who tested negative and ultimately flew on the May 14 repatriation flight were also given a rapid antigen test prior to boarding, and tested again by NT Health in their first 24 hours at Howard Springs.

Both sets of tests validated the original results, with only one additional passenger testing positive at Howard Springs, suggesting this person contracted COVID prior to leaving India but had yet to develop the infection.

"Considering all of these data points, Qantas and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade do not believe that any passengers booked on this flight were denied boarding in error," the airline said.

Lab change to ensure confidence in system

However, Qantas said there were some issues with the testing in India.

The tests were conducted at the quarantine hotel rather than a COVID-19 clinic and because of this the medical provider used by Qantas - which had proper accreditation - sent the tests for processing at another laboratory, known as CRL, rather than using their own labs.

CRL had a temporary suspension of its accreditation for non-COVID tests, but was clear to do COVID testing for the Indian government.

Despite the tests passing subsequent checks, a different lab will be used for future pre-flight testing to ensure confidence in the system.

Qantas chief medical officer Ian Hosegood said the airline had been working hard to design a system to keep staff, passengers and the Australian public safe.

"Managing a COVID testing regime in India at the moment is inherently difficult but these results have been checked again and we're confident they are right," he said.

He said weak positive results can mean someone is either in the very early stages of COVID or could reflect a prior infection they may not even know they had.

Qantas is now working with DFAT to prioritise passengers who were unable to board the flight to take up a future flight, once the mandatory 14 day time frame following a positive test has elapsed.

The next repatriation flight is due later in the week.

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