497 Suspected coronavirus cases isolated: Health Minister Vardhan discusses COVID-19

New Delhi: “Political commitment at the highest levels of the Government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the government’s response against Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). India is prepared through its various timely measures and sturdy systems of surveillance for Novel Coronavirus”, stated Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, as he addressed a press conference on the status update, actions taken, and preparedness on novel coronavirus disease in India, here today.

Harsh Vardhan stated that a high level Group of Ministers consisting of Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Civil Aviation, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Minister of State (MoS) for Shipping, and Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare has been constituted under his Chairmanship to monitor the situation.

Vardhan added that regular reviews are held with all related Ministries of Health, Defence, External Affairs, Civil Aviation, Home, Textiles, Pharmaceuticals, Commerce, Panchayati Raj and other officials including State Chief Secretaries.

“We have good and effective co-ordination among ministries, robust surveillance systems, a network of laboratories to support diagnosis, upgraded medical facilities, trained health work force, and media presence that can reach even remote areas. We have put all these resources at our disposal to prevent and contain the outbreak of novel coronavirus in India,” Vardhan stated.

In addition to the ministerial meetings, a video conference is being held every other day with states to review their preparedness and actions, Vardhan stated, adding that all Ministries and States have done commendable work, in particular Kerala, which has put up a sturdy system of surveillance.

Elaborating on measures taken by the Government, Vardhan said that advisories and guidelines have been issued to the States on surveillance, sample collection, packaging and transportation, infection prevention and control, and clinical management, adding that India was possibly the first country to issue a travel advisory earlier on 17 January. All these guidance documents are available on the website of MoHFW, and the travel advisory is being updated as per the evolving situation, he declared.

Vardhan also shared that surveillance at Points of Entry (PoE) is continuing at 21 Airports, 12 major ports, 65 minor ports and at 6 land crossings. So far at the airports a cumulative of 2,51,447 persons (2,315 flights) have been screened, while 3 suspected cases and 161 contacts have been identified. 5,491 and 285 passengers and crew have been screened at major and minor ports respectively.

An Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) is carrying out community wide surveillance of passengers travelling from China, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. A total of 15,991 persons are being followed up for a period of 28 days of which 3,058 have completed 28 days of the observation period. 497 suspect cases have been isolated.

ICMR is providing the Laboratory support with NIV, Pune, as the nodal laboratory and 14 other network laboratories. This can be expanded to include 50 laboratories, if the situation so demands. So far, 1,071 samples have been tested, out of which 1,068 were found negative and only 3 have tested positive in Kerala.

In addition, clinical samples of the 654 evacuees at Manesar and ITBP camps have also been tested and all of them were found to be negative. All 3 positive cases from Kerala are students from Wuhan, Hubei, China. The observation was started from 28 January and they were reported positive on 3 February by NIV, Pune. States have been asked to ensure adequate provisions for isolation facilities and critical care, especially for ventilator support.

Vardhan also stated that Rapid Response Teams have been trained by his Ministry in all States for managing emergencies due to high risk pathogens. The risk is being communicated through media including social media to raise awareness among the public. Daily press briefings are held and press releases issued. There is outreach to every village in the districts adjoining Nepal border through Gram Sabhas. Daily situational reports are generated. A 24×7 control room-cum-call centre is operational.

Vardhan also shared that India evacuated 645 Indian persons from Wuhan city including 7 Maldivians, and quarantined them in 2 special quarantine camps. They are likely to be discharged once all of them test negative after a period of stay of 14 days.

India has extended support to Maldives in testing samples and Bhutan in managing COVID-19, and agreed to support Afghanistan in testing samples. India is also extending help to China by sending essential items for combating the coronavirus in China as per the commitment of the Prime Minister.

Vardhan added that the surveillance at points of entry and in the community is the key to detect cases early, track the contacts, and follow them up. He reiterated that COVID-19 is highly infectious; however, the redeeming feature is that the case fatality is about 2% in mainland China and less than 0.2% outside China. Many of the epidemiological parameters of this disease are not yet known.

In the end, Vardhan thanked media persons for their responsible reporting and efforts to ensure the containment of COVID-19 in India, by spreading awareness among the people.

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The ID Staff

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