One more student belonging to Kerala who recently returned from Wuhan University in China tested positive for Novel Coronavirus Sunday, taking the confirmed cases of the virus in the country to two. Officials said the 22-year-old, belonging to Alappuzha, had travelled along with the first positive case, now under isolation in Thrissur.
“They have common travel history from Wuhan to Kochi via Kolkata. After reaching Alappuzha, the 22-year-old was under home quarantine and was later shifted to the medical college after he developed minor symptoms, such as sore throat and fever. The symptoms are not serious although he has tested positive,” an official said.
Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja said the student had been under observation since January 24, and a sample sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV)-Pune had tested positive. The 22-year-old is admitted to the isolation unit at Alappuzha Medical College. His parents have also been put under observation.
“Surveillance and control measures have been strengthened across Kerala in the wake of the confirmation of the second case of coronavirus in the state. Those suspected to be exposed to the virus should stay in isolation for saving theirs as well as other’s lives,” Shailaja said, reiterating the state’s experience of successfully containing Nipah in 2018. At least two hospitals with isolation facilities have been identified in each district.
Officials said the Alappuzha student and the first patient who tested positive had been in contact in Wuhan and later travelled to India together. “She went home from Kochi by a taxi and later visited a primary health centre in Alappuzha. All her primary contacts, now put at 49, are under close observation. Besides, the other students who had travelled on the same flights as the two confirmed cases are being closely monitored,” an official said.
Officials added that the first person who tested positive, also a student, is recovering fast. “Her samples are being sent to the NIV-Pune for a repeat test to analyse the present status of the infection,” an official said.
Air India brought in a second plane-load of Indian citizens from Wuhan on Sunday, with the 323 flying into Delhi and subjected to screening and quarantine, along with the crew. Ambassador of India in China Vikram Misri tweeted that the flight also had seven Maldivians.
Only asymptomatic individuals are being allowed to board evacuation flights by China, as per international protocol to contain the spread of the disease.
There are many Indian professionals in China who did not opt to be evacuated, while some were not allowed on the flights by authorities because they had fever. Official sources at the Embassy of India in Beijing said, “Ten Indians who were supposed to be on our two evacuation flights were not allowed to board because of temperature.”
The new arrivals were classified into ‘suspected cases’ (individuals with signs of fever, cough or respiratory distress), contacts (those who had visited a seafood/animal market or a health facility or had come in contact with a Chinese person with symptoms in the last 14 days) and those without either symptoms or contact history.
An earlier flight, on Saturday, had brought 324 passengers. After screening at the airport by the Armed Forces Medical Services and Airport Health Authority, 220 were sent for quarantine to an Army facility at Manesar near Delhi and 104 to an ITBP facility at Chhawla Camp in West Delhi.
The passengers have been divided into sectors at the facilities, each with a maximum 50 people, who are not allowed to intermingle.
Nearly 2,000 people back from China, mainly from worst-hit Wuhan region, are under observation in Kerala now — a sharp rise from January 25, when the number stood at 172. Of the 1,999, 1,924 are under home quarantine and 75 in isolation.
Health Department sources said they were surprised at the quantum jump in the number of people under observation. “Ninety-five per cent of them are students who have been in Wuhan. Others are business travellers and there are a few who have returned from the UAE, Malaysia and Singapore. We hope the number of persons under observation will plateau now,” an official said.
India on Sunday temporarily suspended e-visa facility for travellers from China. “This applies to holders of Chinese passports and applicants of other nationalities residing in the People’s Republic of China. Holders of already issued e-visas may note that these are no longer valid,” an announcement by the Indian Embassy said, adding that in case of an emergency, the applicants could contact the Embassy or Indian consulates.
Thermal screening of passengers coming in from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand is currently on at 21 airports in the country. So far, 58,658 passengers from 445 flights have been screened, 142 symptomatic travellers referred to isolation facilities, 130 samples tested and 128 found negative.
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