New Record: 173 People On Flight Test Positive For Coronavirus

New Record: 173 People On Flight Test Positive For Coronavirus

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Update: As it turns out, the lab being used at Amritsar Airport made an error, and is to blame for most of the positive coronavirus cases. You can find the original post below.

Remember how yesterday I wrote about 125 people on a charter flight from Italy to India testing positive for coronavirus, accounting for 78% of the people tested? Well, today 173 people on a charter flight from Italy to India tested positive for coronavirus, accounting for 82% of the people tested.

Flight has 82% COVID-19 testing positivity rate

A charter flight that landed in India today had even more positive coronavirus cases than that the previous flight. The flight in question was YU632, a charter flight on EuroAtlantic Airways, which is a Portuguese charter company. The airline was operating a flight from Rome, Italy (FCO), to Amritsar, India (ATQ).

After a flight of just over seven hours, the plane landed in India earlier today, and passengers were tested on arrival (as is the standard requirement when coming from a “high-risk” country):

  • There were 285 passengers, but only 210 passengers had to get tested, since the requirement doesn’t apply to children
  • Of the 210 passengers tested, at least 173 tested positive
  • That means the test positivity rate was 82%; crunching the numbers, I would guess that probably at least ~234 passengers actually have coronavirus, since kids aren’t being tested (and probably even more, since kids are less likely to be vaccinated)
  • Passengers who tested positive will be put into quarantine, but who knows if they’ll stay; on the previous flight, 13 people “escaped” the quarantine facility

You know the wildest part of this story? The plane that was operating this route was the exact same plane that carried the people to India a couple of days before, where there were at least 125 positive cases. The Boeing 767-300 with the registration code CS-TST flew from Milan to Amritsar on Wednesday, then it flew to Rome, and then it flew back to Amritsar, arriving today.

I’m still extremely confused

I’m not sure what confuses me most:

  • How can 82% of people test positive for coronavirus at the same time? I get omicron is highly contagious, but I feel like even if you intended for everyone to get it, you couldn’t plan to have that many people test positive at once
  • What exactly were these charter flights for? I’m starting to think that maybe the flights were carrying workers who lived together in close quarters, because that’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with? That also doesn’t really make sense, given the number of children onboard…
  • How does EuroAtlantic have any non-infected crews left to work these flights?
  • EuroAtlantic has several more of these charters planned, so will India allows these flights to continue to operate?

There must be some connection between these infections and the type of charter flights, since these are back-to-back flights not only on the same airline, but even on the same airplane. I’m almost starting to wonder if these charter flights are somehow intended for people actively infected with coronavirus?

Bottom line

Two EuroAtlantic Airways charter flights just two days apart have each had well over 100 people test positive for coronavirus on arrival. In the past we’ve seen flights with a 10% positivity rate, or maybe a couple of dozen infected passengers.

But the same Boeing 767 full of passengers delivered 125 positive coronavirus tests on Wednesday, and 173 coronavirus tests today. And there are definitely more cases than that, given the number of passengers who weren’t even tested.

Does anyone have more info here as to who exactly these passengers are?

Conversations (35)
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  1. Tom Verschueren Guest

    It can easily be explained by omicron in my opinion. Omicron occurs in the upper part of the respiratory system. It starts earlier in the throat then in the nose. So mostly all the tests takes place via nose 24-48h before boarding the plane. So omicron might not be noticed yet then on the nose swap. Thus boarding people who are indeed infected. While on the plane time passes between test 1 and arrival test...

    It can easily be explained by omicron in my opinion. Omicron occurs in the upper part of the respiratory system. It starts earlier in the throat then in the nose. So mostly all the tests takes place via nose 24-48h before boarding the plane. So omicron might not be noticed yet then on the nose swap. Thus boarding people who are indeed infected. While on the plane time passes between test 1 and arrival test 2, giving the virus the way to the nose, thus getting detected at arrival. Meanwhile probably some other passengers also got infected as it is highly contagious. What do you think?

  2. Toby Guest

    Makes me question the accuracy of testing done at Amritsar. Wouldn’t be surprised if the charter airline didn’t pay off someone at the airport so they decided to get back at them in this way.

  3. Jared Guest

    These flights are chartered by Spice Jet. Some reports suggest repatriation of Indian citizens with temporary visas for overseas travel before potential air travel restrictions. It is unclear whether testing for covid before departure was required for these passengers since they had to be repatriated and since testing was to be conducted port side anyways.

  4. Ben Guest

    Lucky, you're sooo close to understanding it!

  5. Glenn Guest

    Bottom line is for countries to stop these farcical testing requirements and acknowledge that COVID is here to stay. Better to impose vaccination requirements as a condition of free passage, as the morbidity and mortality rates of COVID in vaccinated individuals approximate that of seasonal influenza.

  6. RC Guest

    how is this a productive story? yawn.

  7. CHRIS Guest

    OMG!!!! This is TOTALLY WORSE than the plane crashing!!!! Thots and Shares

  8. Musen Sugoi Guest

    I think the most likely scenario here is laboratory contamination that resulted in false positives. Amristar is a small airport with relatively little international traffic, and perhaps one or two flights per day from an "at risk" country. Any contamination would make it seem like a high positivity rate for a single flight, but in reality, that may be the only flight that was tested on a given day.
    A positivity rate in the...

    I think the most likely scenario here is laboratory contamination that resulted in false positives. Amristar is a small airport with relatively little international traffic, and perhaps one or two flights per day from an "at risk" country. Any contamination would make it seem like a high positivity rate for a single flight, but in reality, that may be the only flight that was tested on a given day.
    A positivity rate in the 80% range is close to impossible, unless you were actively seeking out infected passengers. An in that case, there would be no way that they could find crew to operate the flight.

    1. kimshep Guest

      Nor does the article address what the testing mechanism was ie: PCR vs RAT test. Given that PCR tests have a very high degree of accuracy and take significant time to process, I doubt that this was the test type. If, as I suspect, it was a RAT (rapid antigen test) then the possibility of a high level of false positives is clearly possible. There is a wide degree of accuracy (from none, upwards) and it is entirely possible that cheap RATs could have been used.

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      Arrival testing in India is only via PCR

  9. James Guest

    Wow. Imagine what would’ve happened if they weren’t wearing masks.

    1. Flyer17383 Guest

      They aren’t lmao. Maybe slightly more than the US but barely.

    2. Jordan Member

      Have you ever been to India? I have flown in/out and within India during this period, and I assure you that people are wearing masks, fully fitted...and some in full plastic attire.

    3. Jared Guest

      Agree with Jordan. Masks are mandatory for air travel within India. Airports don’t allow entry of passengers into terminals unless masks are worn properly. The airlines don’t require face shields and PPE gowns any more but masks remain mandatory. Having traveled during the pandemic in the U.S. and in India, the proportion of people wearing masks in metropolitan areas is significantly larger in India than in the U.S.

    4. Evelina Guest

      You are right, I have been in India various times through past year due to work and the proportion of people I show wearing mask is pretty much unanimous in DEL and BLR, and people do follow rules and don’t retaliate back with nonsense like “taking freedom away”. The same is true for most Asian countries. They understand that a global health emergency is more important then your personal pleasure and I guess it is...

      You are right, I have been in India various times through past year due to work and the proportion of people I show wearing mask is pretty much unanimous in DEL and BLR, and people do follow rules and don’t retaliate back with nonsense like “taking freedom away”. The same is true for most Asian countries. They understand that a global health emergency is more important then your personal pleasure and I guess it is understandable since these countries have experienced the blunt of infectious pandemics that has cropped up in the past various decades and they understand the complexity of it

    5. Luke Guest

      Having stayed at a 5 star hotel in India for 2 weeks after Thanksgiving and during height of the wedding season there, have noticed a lot of the opposite. At least in the hotel would say mask wearing was much more lax with perhaps 50% of guests wearing it, even during crowded elevator rides and breakfast buffet.

      On other hand at most other stores and shopping malls mask wearing was strictly enforced.

  10. Ankur Guest

    Amritsar isn’t a very common airport for direct international flights. There are travel agencies in India that offer all-inclusive / half-board package tours to European destinations, which either book blocks on traditional airlines or charter their own flights as the economies of scale work out better for the travel agencies. Think a bit like Thomas Cook or Tui in the U.K. And since these are packaged tours, the passengers / tourists are likely to be...

    Amritsar isn’t a very common airport for direct international flights. There are travel agencies in India that offer all-inclusive / half-board package tours to European destinations, which either book blocks on traditional airlines or charter their own flights as the economies of scale work out better for the travel agencies. Think a bit like Thomas Cook or Tui in the U.K. And since these are packaged tours, the passengers / tourists are likely to be staying at the same hotels, travelling together in buses, going to the same towns, travelling with families etc. Given that context, much like we saw in the early days of how Covid impacted cruise ships for instance it’s likely that this is cropping up due to common travel plans and staff interacting with the passengers.

    1. Luke Guest

      If this were the case, the pre-departure tests in Italy should have caught at least some cases, rather than everyone magically becoming infected during the flight only. Somewhere I suspect scam.

    2. Ehch Guest

      These are very likely not tour groups, rather seasonal workers in farms, dairy plants, etc. Think shared rooms and zero health concerns instead of hotels and wellness breaks.

  11. Luke Guest

    I'm starting to doubt the testing equipment and its accuracy at Amritsar airport, which I dont think gets much international flights otherwise. Can it really be so much coincidence that such a huge percentage of tests have come two days in a row from same destination airport only!

    1. Steve Diamond

      Why doubt just their testing system, why not question all testing systems. You know the quickest way to ensure someone tests more often and pays for more tests? A positive test.

  12. Pamm Guest

    Don: Could you please give your references for your claim?

    1. Don Guest

      I saw it on a TV commercial from that guy selling pillows. Fox News channel.

  13. Covid Fairy Guest

    The world needs to shutdown all borders and flights for a full three months to end this dangerous virus. The vaccine, testing, and masks are not enough for the past two years.

    SHUT DOWN EVERYTHING BEFORE EVERYONE GETS IT!!!

    1. Steve Diamond

      The death rate of omicron is the same if not less than the death rate of the seasonal flu, and that is based on how many confirmed cases which does not account for millions of people who got it and didnt test because they were either asymptomatic or were exposed and just stayed home for a week. We never shut the world off for the seasonal flu why shut it off now?

    2. Never In Doubt Guest

      Steve, your troll/sarcasm detector batteries may need replacement.

  14. AdamH Guest

    What type of charter is this? If it was for a group that had been traveling together I could believe that there was a cluster of cases. If it was just a group of people who all happened to meet at the airport to start a tour group on the other end I would be more surprised.

  15. Ken Guest

    Lol, I wish we would shift our attention to testing sick people rather than randomly test everyone. Singapore's foreign worker's dormitory comes to mind where more than half of the workers who live in very tight quarters tested positive, mostly asymptomatic, and this may be a similar situation. I'm just wondering why the pre-departure test didn't pick it up. It's possible different labs use different CT (CQ) values to decide who is positive, i.e maybe...

    Lol, I wish we would shift our attention to testing sick people rather than randomly test everyone. Singapore's foreign worker's dormitory comes to mind where more than half of the workers who live in very tight quarters tested positive, mostly asymptomatic, and this may be a similar situation. I'm just wondering why the pre-departure test didn't pick it up. It's possible different labs use different CT (CQ) values to decide who is positive, i.e maybe they have already recovered but still test positive. Perhaps India includes CT values above 30/35 while I have heard some countries only consider one positive if CT value is below 30

    1. Emily Guest

      You are right. Labs in India that I’ve been tested at consider Ct above 35 a positive detection of SARS-Cov2.

    2. Emily Guest

      Correction: positive if Ct < 35

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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James Guest

Wow. Imagine what would’ve happened if they weren’t wearing masks.

3
Ankur Guest

Amritsar isn’t a very common airport for direct international flights. There are travel agencies in India that offer all-inclusive / half-board package tours to European destinations, which either book blocks on traditional airlines or charter their own flights as the economies of scale work out better for the travel agencies. Think a bit like Thomas Cook or Tui in the U.K. And since these are packaged tours, the passengers / tourists are likely to be staying at the same hotels, travelling together in buses, going to the same towns, travelling with families etc. Given that context, much like we saw in the early days of how Covid impacted cruise ships for instance it’s likely that this is cropping up due to common travel plans and staff interacting with the passengers.

3
Alonzo Guest

Who cares.

3
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