Australia

‘A significant loss’: A 47-year-old Sydney man has died from COVID-19 in India

A Sydney father and businessman has died in India after contracting COVID-19, his employer says. 

Govind Kant, an Australian assistant director for energy company Trina Solar, had returned to India for family reasons, the company said in a statement. 

He reportedly died on 16 May at a hospital in Delhi after contracting the virus at the end of April. He was 47 years old. 

“Our deepest condolences go to his wife, two daughters and other family members,” the company said.

“This is a significant loss to Trina Solar and mere words cannot express the heartfelt sorrow we all feel upon Govind’s passing and we will provide necessary assistance to his family in this mourn period and we pray his soul may rest in peace.”

Trina Solar paid tribute to the 47-year-old Sydney businessman in a Facebook post.

Facebook

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday he mourns with Mr Kant’s family. 

“I feel terribly sorry for the family and I mourn with them, just as I do for any Australian family who have lost loved ones overseas during this pandemic,” Mr Morrison said. 

“We will provide support to the family through our consular offices to return their loved one to Australia, if that is what they wish.”

 

The prime minister said the government continues to work to bring back more than 20,000 Australians from India amid its devastating COVID-19 outbreak. The country’s total COVID-19 caseload surged by 25 million on Tuesday, as a powerful cyclone complicated the health crisis.

 

Mr Kant had reportedly flown to India in early April following the death of his mother. 

“I am so sorry Mummy – I was not with you…” he wrote on Facebook on 31 March, posting a link to a virtual memorial service. 

The previous day, he wrote in a Facebook group for Australians stranded there requesting travel advice. 

“I need to urgently travel to India due to a family tragedy – please advise best option to travel to Delhi and come back to Sydney within a few weeks – I am an Australian citizen – thanks,” Mr Kant wrote. 

On 19 April, Mr Kant posted another question, asking: “Anyone travelling on 24 April Delhi to Syd Air India flight?”

SBS News has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment. 

Several people on Facebook have also shared memories of Mr Kant, and sent condolences to his family. 

“One of my favourite people in the industry. Going to miss that big laugh of his,” one person wrote on the company’s Facebook page. 

“Such a great loss to the industry and his family. Had the fortune to know Govind for over 10 years,” said another. 

“[He] will be missed by many.” 

Trina Solar paid tribute to 47-year-old Sydney businessman Govind Kant in a Facebook post.

Trina Solar paid tribute to 47-year-old Sydney businessman Govind Kant in a Facebook post.

Facebook

Mr Kant’s death in India follows that of an Australian permanent resident earlier in the month.

Sydney woman Sonali Ralhan said her father died on 5 May in a small private New Delhi hospital after contracting COVID-19. 

Her father, 59, became a permanent resident of Australia more than 10 years ago, and often travelled back to India where he managed a hotel in New Delhi. 

Because of his frequent business travel, he hadn’t spent enough time in Australia to qualify for citizenship, but planned to apply. Ms Ralhan, her brother, and her mother already qualified and are Australian citizens.

Ms Ralhan told SBS News her parents travelled to India late last year and both had been unable to book flights to return ever since. 

She revealed her father’s death in an earlier Facebook post, saying she was “highly disappointed” to be an Australian citizen. At the time, she said her mother, who had recovered from COVID-19, remained in India. 

“It is with a very heavy heart and pain I need to inform you that my father has left us,” she wrote on Facebook.

“Now all I have left is my mother, who has been abandoned by her own government of Australia.

“We all want to cry our hearts out, but we are saving them for when we are all together again.”

News of her father’s death came during the federal government’s India travel ban, which made it temporarily illegal for citizens and permanent residents stranded there to come home. 

That ban was lifted on Saturday, when the first repatriation flight from India touched down in Australia

Meanwhile, a review of pre-flight test results for the first post-pause India repatriation flight has validated the results given to passengers.

More than 40 people who tested positive pre-flight along with about 30 of their close contacts were barred from returning on Saturday.

But concerns have been raised that some passengers were barred from the flight due to false-positive tests.

Qantas said all of the positive test results were re-run over the weekend under additional medical supervision, and the outcomes were the same.

This included some weak positives that may have been interpreted as negative results by other laboratories.

The passengers who tested negative and ultimately flew on the 14 May repatriation flight were also given a rapid antigen test prior to boarding, and tested again by NT Health in their first 24 hours at Howard Springs.

Both sets of tests validated the original results, with only one additional passenger testing positive at Howard Springs, suggesting this person contracted COVID prior to leaving India but had yet to develop the infection.

“Considering all of these data points, Qantas and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade do not believe that any passengers booked on this flight were denied boarding in error,” the airline said.

However, Qantas said there were some issues with the testing in India.

The tests were conducted at the quarantine hotel rather than a COVID-19 clinic and because of this the medical provider used by Qantas – which had proper accreditation – sent the tests for processing at another laboratory, known as CRL, rather than using their own labs.

CRL had a temporary suspension of its accreditation for non-COVID tests, but was clear to do COVID testing for the Indian government.

Despite the tests passing subsequent checks, a different lab will be used for future pre-flight testing to ensure confidence in the system.

Qantas chief medical officer Ian Hosegood said the airline had been working hard to design a system to keep staff, passengers and the Australian public safe.

“Managing a COVID testing regime in India at the moment is inherently difficult but these results have been checked again and we’re confident they are right,” he said.

He said weak positive results can mean someone is either in the very early stages of COVID or could reflect a prior infection they may not even know they had.

Qantas is now working with DFAT to prioritise passengers who were unable to board the flight to take up a future flight, once the mandatory 14-day time frame following a positive test has elapsed.

The next repatriation flight is due later in the week.

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