For years, India’s government machinery has been thought to be staid and slow, and as the levers of the bureaucracy moved, it could take years for a simple query to be answered. The coronavirus outbreak is showing how things have changed quite a bit since.
Last afternoon, a Twitter user posted a tweet claiming he hadn’t gone through a thermal check after landing at Ahmedabad International Airport. “Returned from Toronto to Ahmedabad today, 3 am. No thermal check, no other checks. Just filled a self declaration form, and they let me go saying I’m to self isolate myself for 2 weeks. If this is how they do it, India is going to be in real bad trouble,” he wrote.
The tweet immediately went viral among circles which routinely bash the Modi government, and quickly racked up over 1,600 retweets. The tweet did appear show a major lapse — even as PM Modi was urging people across the country to self-quarantine, airport authorities seemed to be letting in people without checking them.
But just a little while later, the Ahmedabad airport responded. “Mr Abhimanyu, Airport Officials are putting their lives on risk to support the society (sic). Your statement is inappropriate and hurting. You deplaned on EY288 today at 0244 hours and infrared thermal scanned at 0248 hours. Please do not spread panic in society and be a responsible citizen,” the account said.
Even more impressively, government officials had not only figured out the Twitter user’s flight details, but they also managed to find a picture of him being thermal screened while at the airport, which was attached the to the original tweet.
The airport also shared CCTV footage which showed the Twitter user passing through the thermal scanner.
CCTV footage for your Infrared thermal scan at Ahmedabad airport pic.twitter.com/mkTydQqz5d
— APD Ahmedabad (@aaisvpiairport) March 21, 2020
At this point, the twitter user backtracked, and claimed that he’d mistakenly thought that the thermal check was an “eye check up”.
While it’s unclear why a clearly educated and well-traveled person would think that they would be subjected to an “eye check up” at an airport, but the fake news was quickly checked by the airport authorities, and conclusively debunked on the very platform where it originated. These have to be tough times for government officials — not only are they working to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but they’re also having to dispel possibly malicious rumours on Twitter. And thus far, they seem to be doing a pretty stellar job.