Ambulances lined up outside Amritsar airport to take the infected passengers away [Source: RAVINDER SINGH ROBIN]
A total of 125 passengers who arrived in the northern Indian city of Amritsar on a chartered flight from Italy have tested positive for Covid-19.
They will be placed in isolation, health officials said.
They were among 179 passengers on the flight from Milan which landed in Amritsar on Wednesday afternoon.
India reported more than 90,000 cases on Thursday – a nearly six-fold rise over the past week that experts say is fuelled by the Omicron variant.
The country recorded 325 deaths in the 24 hours but only one has been linked to Omicron, officials said.
Reports said that children and infants travelling on the plane were exempt from testing for Covid-19. Of the 160 passengers tested, 125 were found to be positive for the virus.
TV pictures showed ambulances lined up outside the airport to take away the infected passengers and crowds outside the entrance gates.
Officials say the Omicron variant is the predominant strain in Indian cities and mass gatherings should be avoided.
The states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Jharkhand are deemed to be “emerging states of concern”, with a sharp increase in weekly cases and positivity rates.
India has so far recorded more than 35m Covid cases and around 482,000 deaths from the virus.
A disastrous second wave in April and May 2021 saw infections and deaths climb as hospitals ran out of beds, oxygen and life-saving drugs.
Preliminary data suggests that those with Omicron are less likely to spend time in hospital in critical care compared to previous variants.
But experts and doctors fear that a surge could still derail healthcare services – especially as India is headed for multiple state elections, which are often accompanied by massive rallies.
Several states, including Delhi and Maharashtra, have reintroduced curbs and temporary curfews to limit gatherings and slow the spread of the virus.