New Delhi: Addressing 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, urged that all suspected or probable cases of coronavirus must be treated in isolation with barrier nursing and universal precautions to prevent the further spread of disease.
The ever increasing magnitude of this outbreak calls for a concerted effort by not only health but all sectors of Government, the Minister stated, adding that Government of India has initiated a series of actions to prevent the entry of the disease and to contain it and he is reviewing the situation daily.
A group of ministers consisting of the Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Civil Aviation, and Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs, Minister of State for Shipping, and Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare, chaired by Harsh Vardhan, has been constituted to monitor the situation, he stated.
The Cabinet Secretary has taken daily reviews with all related Ministries of Health, Defence, External Affairs, Civil Aviation, Home, Textiles, Pharma, Commerce, and other officials including with State Chief Secretaries, said Vardhan, adding that his own Ministry is constantly reviewing the evolving scenario and video conferences are being held with states every other day.
Government of India has also taken several other measures to control the risk of coronavirus infection spreading to India, stated the Minister, adding that the first advisory was issued on 17 January and as the situation is evolving, travel advisories are revised accordingly.
Presently, existing visas (including eVisa already issued) are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China.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. People travelling to China henceforth will be quarantined on return, and those who have compelling reasons to visit India are asked to contact the Indian embassy in Beijing, or consulate in Shanghai or Guangzhou.
Screening of passengers began on 18 January. Initially, airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi were covered and subsequently expanded to a total of 21 airports. Universal thermal screening has been made mandatory for all flights from Singapore and Thailand besides Hong Kong and China, and these flights will park at earmarked aero-bridges to facilitate screening.
Signages have been displayed at prominent places in airports and ports. In-flight announcements are being made and self-declaration forms are being filled by all passengers. Teams of specialist doctors were sent to all airports to ensure effective screening and arrangement for isolation in the attached hospitals.
Screening of passengers has also been initiated in 12 major seaports and all minor ports in the country to identify passengers & crew coming from China and to isolate them in case they are found symptomatic.
In view of a confirmed case in Nepal, the Government has initiated screening in all integrated check posts from Nepal in collaboration with the states of UP, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, and Bihar, and Seema Shastra Bal (SSB) and Land Port Authorities. Gram Sabhas have been conducted in villages adjoining the borders with Nepal to create awareness amongst people about the disease and precautions to be taken in collaboration with Panchayati Raj Ministry, Harsh Vardhan stated.
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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