More than 100 people aboard a chartered flight arriving in India from Italy tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, health authorities said.
According to The Times of India, 125 out of 179 people flying from Milan into the international airport at Amritsar were found to be positive for the deadly virus.
The flight, operated by the Portuguese company EuroAtlantic Airways, landed in the northern Indian city around 1:30 p.m.
Since Italy is considered an “at-risk” country by Indian health authorities, a test was conducted for 160 passengers. The remaining 19 passengers were children and thus exempt from testing.
The situation outside the airport got tense, as relatives of some of the passengers accused the government of the Punjab state of possibly fabricating the high number of positive cases.
“We were negative for COVID when we boarded the flight. How could we have turned positive during the eight-hour-long flight? It was mandatory to procure COVID negative reports not older than 72 hours before boarding the flight in Italy,” a woman named Gurinder Kaur told The Indian Express. “This is impossible.”
Amritsar Chief Medical Officer Charanjit Singh responded to the allegations saying that “we tested all the passengers and there were many who tested negative. There is no conspiracy.”
On Thursday, India reported more than 90,000 new COVID-19 infections, representing a near sixfold rise over the past week.
Experts believe that the rise has been fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
More than 35 million confirmed infections have been reported in the country since the beginning of the pandemic — including more than 480,000 deaths.