New Delhi: Addressing Rajya Sabha on the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) disease in China and some other countries, and outlining the actions taken by the Government of India in combating the epidemic, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Harsh Vardhan, stated on 7 February that regular surveillance has been initiated across the country for all cases having travel history from China and for people having contact with such persons.
The Minister revealed that National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, is the nodal laboratory. As part of the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) preparedness for emerging and re-emerging infectious disease, NIV has established capacity for molecular diagnosis of nCoV. Next generation sequencing is also established. Testing of clinical samples has also been initiated in 11 more laboratories.
As of today, 1,510 samples have been tested and 1,507 samples were found negative except for 3 samples which had tested positive already from Kerala. All the Kerala coronavirus cases have a travel history from Wuhan, China. They have been isolated and are reported to be clinically stable.
Risk communication material has been prepared and is disseminated even in regional languages through states, the Minister stated, adding that required awareness in the community is ensured through technical briefings by experts in radio and television. A daily Press briefing is being held by the Ministry of Health, and information is being shared through social media. A 24×7 Control Room is also operational and can be reached at (011) 2397 8046.
Vardhan said the Government of India is in regular touch with WHO headquarters, regional office, and country office to get updates on the evolving scenario.
He added that the Government has also provided support to other countries in tackling the challenge posed by coronavirus. ICMR has offered to do testing of samples for other South-East Asian countries, while testing of samples from Maldives has already been undertaken. A request from Afghanistan for samples testing has been agreed to, and India has agreed to provide technical assistance to Bhutan in managing the spread and screening of passengers.
The Health Minister assured the members of Rajya Sabha that the Government is constantly monitoring the situation and taking all the necessary steps to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
China, where the epidemic began, reported an additional 89 deaths on Sunday, bringing the total number of people killed by the fast-spreading virus to 811 in the mainland. The global death toll for the new coronavirus currently stands at 813, including one death in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong.
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