Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, India’s topmost bureaucrat, on Thursday flagged that there was a gap between the number of incoming international passengers who should have been monitored for coronavirus and those who are actually being checked and warned that it could “seriously jeopardize” efforts to control the pandemic.

In his letter to the chief secretaries of states on Thursday, Gauba said that the Bureau of Immigration had informed the states and Union Territories that more than 15 lakh international passengers – who landed in India before international flights were banned on March 22 – had to be monitored. Without saying how many passengers were actually being monitored, Gauba said that there had been a gap.

“There seems to be a gap in the number of passengers who need to be monitored by the states and Union Territories and the actual number of passengers being monitored,” Gauba wrote in his letter. “This may seriously jeopardize our efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, given that many amongst the persons who tested positive for COVID-19 in India have a history of international travel.”

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Gauba urged the chief secretaries to put all passengers with travel history under surveillance and enlist the help of district authorities. “It is important that they are put under close surveillance to prevent the spread of the epidemic,” the cabinet secretary said. “I would therefore like to request to ensure that concerted and sustained action is taken urgently as per Health Ministry guidelines.”

On Thursday, the government extended ban on international flights till April 14 amid a countrywide lockdown over coronavirus. The government had earlier announced that no international flights will be allowed to land in India from March 22 for a week.

Seventeen people in India have died due to Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, the Union health ministry confirmed on Friday. There are 724 confirmed cases in the country, of which 640 are active.