Update: looks like it was a testing error.
Seventy eight percent of passengers on a single flight from Italy to India tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival. The Wednesday Boeing 767 charter from Milan Bergamo to Amritsar on EuroAtlantic Airways had 179 passengers on board and 125 tested positive for Covid-19 (78%) after landing.
All passengers flying to India have to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of travel. And those from at-risk countries, such as India must test again on arrival.
- It’s possible some of those negative PCR tests weren’t real
- But they could be 3 days old and the rate at which Omicron is spreading suggests many people not positive 3 days ago may have it today
Take New York City with 40,000 reported positive tests per day. Then assume we’re capturing 1 in 10 cases (given asymptomatic cases, subclinical cases, and home tests without an automatic reporting mechanism). That may be conservative. And then assume five days of infectiousness, so multiply that out and you get an assumed 2 million infectious New Yorkers out of a population of 8.4 million (24% of the population).
This is admittedly back of the envelope. Some places, such as parts of Ireland, may have higher current rates. Still, 78% is incredibly high.
However as a charter flight it’s possible that the groups traveling together may have been together or engaged in similar activities in the days leading up to the trip. One big Indian wedding would do this. So while One Mile at a Time is skeptical of this many positives without fraud or error on the tests, it’s not obvious that this explains the bulk of these travelers.
Omicron spreads at an incredible rate. Fortunately the evidence on boosters is strong against severe disease with Omicron. We threw up barriers to doing variant-specific or multivariant boosters, preferring to continue to vaccinate against the ancestral Wuhan strain, but it’s remarkable how well that holds up as the virus mutates (though allows for significant breakthrough infection). Fortunately Omicron really does seem to be less dangerous and Omicron infection appears to produce cross-immunity to Delta (more so than the other way around). So the rapid spread of this virus may create the wall of immunity that brings the pandemic phase of dealing with Covid-19 to a close.
We may not have a long way to go, but the next couple of months are likely to be a wild ride (shorter in places like New York and London that are ahead in the infection curve).