Air India on Monday said all Indians who flew to Wuhan on a Vande Bharat flight held negative Covid reports from certified labs, after 19 passengers onboard tested positive for the coronavirus upon reaching the Chinese city last week, NDTV reported. The national carrier said there was no question of passengers travelling without valid test reports.

“On October 30, 19 passengers on Air India’s Vande Bharat flight to Wuhan tested positive for Covid-19 at Wuhan Airport, China,” Air India said in a statement, according to ANI. “The airline is aware of the incident. All passengers boarded the flight after thorough checks of their Covid negative certificate.”

Air India added that the airline strictly adheres to all the safety protocol laid down by the regulatory bodies and conforms to requirements at destination airports. “There is no question of passengers boarding any of our flights without valid Covid reports,” the airline stated.

All Indian passengers need to undergo two Covid tests before they board flights, according to the rules laid down by the government. Protocols also stipulate 14-day mandatory quarantine in designated hotels for all those arriving in China.

Besides the 19 Indians who tested positive, antibodies were found in the tests of 39 Chinese officials, unidentified officials told PTI.

The October 30 Air India flight was the sixth operated by India to China in recent months and the first to Wuhan, where the virus emerged late last year. The airline brought 277 Indians from New Delhi and evacuated 157 in this round.

The news of passengers testing positive came days after Air India announced that is planning to operate four flights to Delhi on November 13, 20, 27 and December 4, as part of its repatriation programme.

This is not the first time that outbound passengers on Air India flights to other countries have tested positive on arrival. On Wednesday, Hong Kong banned all Air India flights till November 10 after a few passengers on-board a flight from Mumbai tested positive upon arrival. That was the fourth time the Hong Kong government banned flights operated by the national carrier from the country.

India’s coronavirus count rose to 82,67,623 on Tuesday with 38,310 new cases being recorded in 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed. The country’s toll increased by 490 to 12,3097. The number of active cases stood at 5,41,4,05, while the recoveries reached 76,03,121.

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