6,599 passengers from China under surveillance for coronavirus: Health Minister Vardhan

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Health & Family Welfare, Harsh Vardhan, stated on 7 February that existing visas (including eVisa already issued) are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China. People have been advised to refrain from travel to China through an earlier advisory.

In view of the continuing lockdown of the Hubei Province in China, Harsh Vardhan said the Government of India decided to evacuate Indian students and other professionals working in Wuhan and neighbouring cities in the Hubei Province.

In a coordinated operation with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Air India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, two Special Air India flights were operated between Delhi and Wuhan on 31 January and 1 February that brought back a total of 654 passengers that included 647 Indian citizens (including two Indian Embassy officials who were on the ground in Wuhan to coordinate the evacuation operation) and 7 Maldivian nationals. The Minister thanked Air India, its crew and the team of doctors and paramedical staff who executed this operation.

After the evacuation, the people are presently undergoing quarantine at special facilities created by the Indian Army in Manesar and by Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in Chawla Camp. 10 of the evacuees who were symptomatic have been shifted to isolation. All of them have tested negative for the coronavirus and are stable. All other evacuees are being medically examined on a daily basis and are healthy, the Minister shared.

The Indian Embassy and Consulates are also in regular contact with the Indian Community in other parts of China and are keeping a track of their well-being.

The Minister said regular surveillance has been initiated across the country for all cases having travel history from China and for people having contact with such persons and showing fever, cough or breathlessness. Through an integrated disease surveillance network, all such persons are tracked and presently 6,599 passengers across 29 States and UTs in the community are being followed.

The state surveillance officers, district surveillance officers, and rapid response teams of health professionals under the leadership of state Health Secretaries are monitoring all such people on a daily basis. Sufficient isolation beds have been made available in the tertiary facilities across the country to manage any outbreak, stated Vardhan, and added that 305 symptomatic travellers have been referred to isolation facility and are being monitored.

The Ministry has issued guidelines to support states on surveillance and contact tracing, surveillance at points of entry, laboratory samples collection, packaging and transport, clinical management protocol and infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities.

To ensure availability of critical items like Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) & N95 masks, their export was also prohibited by the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). A buffer stock of personal protective equipment & N95 masks is maintained by the states as well as the Union Government.

In India, three positive coronavirus cases have been reported so far from Kerala. All these cases have a travel history from Wuhan, China. They have been isolated and are reported to be clinically stable.

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.

That number exceeds the global number of deaths from SARS, which killed at least 774 people and infected 8,096 people worldwide in 2002 and 2003, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

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The ID Staff

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