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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Embarrassment in London: How reliable is Indian Covid Testing?

Indian delegation created embarrassment for both India and UK when two members of Foreign Minister, S.Jaishankar's delegation for G-7 tested positive in London despite being found negative while leaving India renewing questions about the quality of Indian covid testing.

Indian delegation to a “G-7 Meeting” in London, last week, created embarrassment for both the UK and India, when two members of this Indian delegation led by its external affairs minister S Jaishankar were tested positive on arrival in Landon. This forced the whole delegation to self-isolate and participate virtually in the G-7 meeting from their hotel rooms.

Episode was especially embarrassing for New Delhi since summit was the “first in-person” meeting of the of G7 and partner countries after the pandemic hit. India is not a member of G-7 club that includes: US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK. India was invited to this meeting as a special privilege- but despite being in London, Indian foreign minister had to participate virtually which he could have done from New Delhi.

Did S Jaishankar violated the UK Isolation SOPs? 

Later a clipping from a Sky News report got viral on social media doing rounds on Facebook and WhatsApp. It claimed that the Indian foreign minister, S Jaishanakar, did not quarantine himself during the summit despite two of his team members testing positive for Covid. The video that is 2 minute and 20 seconds long shows Jaishankar violating UK Covid protocols by meeting United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Home Secretary Preeti Patel during the summit.

Sky News Video was doctored

The video from the UK went viral overnight and reached India where the people did not hold back from blaming the foreign minister for being so reckless. The backlash was so intense that the Indian media publications had to step up to do the damage control. India Today which is India’s leading English language news magazine investigated the incidence and found out that the video had been doctored.

According to IndiaToday, the video begins by saying two officials from the Indian delegation headed by Jaishankar tested positive for coronavirus and had to stay in isolation in their hotel rooms.

However, after a minute into the video, there is a change in presentation style and narration. It is in this part of the video that the narrator says Jaishankar flouted quarantine norms.

Read more: Covid-19 nightmare in India: Lies and propaganda

The publication said that it went through the “Sky News” reports on the recent G7 meeting on their YouTube channel and found the first minute of the video in question carried by a report published by it on May 6. However, they were unable to find the segment that claims that the external affairs minister violated quarantine norms in the official video. Also, in this report, UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab is heard saying that immediately after two Indian delegates were tested positive for coronavirus, the entire team went into self-isolation, claimed India Today. It then explained that S Jaishankar met the British Home Secretary and US Secretary of State before his delegation members were found positive. And as soon as they were tested positive, he self-quarantined and participated from his hotel room.

India Today’s investigation is true, GVS team also probed into the video and compared it to the original Sky News bulletin on the YouTube, and we found out that there was a clear mismatch in the voice overs used in the two and the viral news clip was indeed doctored. We also examined other UK news stories on the incident and while the sense of embarrassment was there, British media had never blamed S Jaishankar for violating the Quarantine SOPs.

Difficult questions arise about Indian Covid Testing

While the video may have been doctored, as pointed out by IndiaToday, and S Jaishankar may have isolated himself into the hotel room after his team members were tested positive but the fact that members of the Indian delegation tested positive, in London, immediately after arriving from India where they had tested negative before boarding the plane has raised difficult questions on the quality of Indian covid testing.

Read more: Indian analyst praises PM Imran Khan over PM Modi

Credibility of Indian covid testing was already under question. Earlier, premier of the Western Australia state Mark McGowan had alleged that COVID-19 tests conducted in India for returning travellers were either inaccurate or unreliable which are impinging on the integrity of the system and causing issues. Similar voices were being raised across India.

India’s Covid test inaccurate, unreliable: Western Australia’s Premier

Now renewed questions are being raised about the efficacy of India’s Covid testing by health experts after the members of the Indian delegation tested positive for the virus in the UK, despite being negative before boarding the plane. This was an Indian delegation of the highest level, headed by the Indian foreign minister who was going for the first physical summit being held during the pandemic and it’s was a national shame that he had to be a part of it via Zoom or such Apps despite being present in the UK.

How is it possible that the members who were declared Covid negative before boarding the plane, immediately became positive after a merely 7-8-hour flight is a pertinent question that has been raised. It clearly shows that the testing in India- which is currently battling the worst second wave of the virus is unreliable.

Covid wreaks unparalleled havoc in India

The rapidly deteriorating Covid situation in India has alarmed the world and has emerged as one of the worst humanitarian crises that the world has seen. The 250,000 recorded deaths (as of May 10) are a terrible catastrophe in themselves.

India’s surge in infections began around mid-March and increased rapidly, reaching a peak of more than 400,000 recorded daily cases on Friday, 30 April and on Thursday, 6 May, the number of new recorded daily infections reached a new high of more than 414,000. A US study in early April had concluded that Indian covid deaths would peak at 5600 deaths a day before ebbing out. Currently the 24 hours death rate hovers between 3500 and 4000.

According to Johns Hopkins University, a high percentage of positive tests suggests the likelihood of many more people in the community with undetected coronavirus.

The Indian government has been receiving emergency aid from various parts of the world as it runs out of space for cremations. But oxygen supplies and hospital beds still remain desperately short across India, with relatives of Covid patients pleading on social media for help.

Research by Noor Fatima with additional input from Agencies and News Desk.