Three more people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (Covid-2019), taking the count of those infected in the country so far to 34. Of the new cases, two are from Ladakh, with a travel history to Iran, and one person is from Tamil Nadu who had travelled to Oman. The Ministry of Health said all patients in India are stable and efforts are on to trace all the people they came in contact with.
Over 150 contacts have been traced of the two US nationals who tested positive for the virus in Bhutan, and placed under community surveillance, sources in the health ministry said. On Friday, Bhutan announced that the two Americans had travelled to various places in India before entering that country.
A flight from Iran has landed in India with the nasal and throat swabs of Indians stranded there. The 108 samples received from Iran on Saturday morning are being tested at AIIMS — only those who test negative can fly to India. Six scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have been stationed in Iran, and equipment and reagents, worth approximately Rs10 crore, have been dispatched to enable them to setup a lab there.
An Airport Authority of India (AAI) spokesperson said passengers from 12 countries – China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Nepal and Indonesia – would be segregated at international airports and not be allowed to mix with other passengers during “health screening, immigration and conveyer belt areas”. Kuwait has ordered the suspension of all flights to and from India and six other countries, reported PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired a review meeting on the coronavirus situation in the country with officials of all ministries and departments concerned, and asked officers to plan the evacuation of Indians stranded in Iran. The Prime Minister also urged Indians to switch to “namaste” as a standard greeting to check the spread of the virus.
Modi asked officers to “identify best practices for Covid-19 management” from across the world and within the states and ensure their adoption. “He mentioned that in view of the opinion of experts, people should be advised to avoid mass gatherings as far as possible and be made aware of Do’s and Don’ts. He directed that an immediate exercise be taken up to identify sufficient locations for quarantine and also for critical care provisioning in case the disease spread. Officials were instructed to plan for early testing and evacuation of Indians from Iran,” said a PMO statement.
Among other issues that came up in the meeting were the need for continued vigil at all airports, seaports and land border crossings, community-level surveillance, and ensuring the availability of sufficient beds for isolation. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan emphasised the need for effective coordination with states for timely response. Secretary, Department of Pharmaceuticals, said that sufficient stocks of medicines, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and other consumables are avialable for use in India.
Apart from the 31 patients who are being treated for the virus (the first three cases from Kerala have been discharged), close to 30,000 others continue to be under community surveillance.
“As many as 52 laboratories are now operational across the country for testing Covid-2019 virus. An additional 57 laboratories have been provided with Viral Transport Media and swabs for sample collection,” the Health Ministry said.
So far 7,26,122 people who have alighted from 7,108 flights have been screened at airports. Between Friday and Saturday, 73,766 passengers from 573 flights have undergone screening at airports.
As a precautionary measure, the Union Territory administration has ordered the immediate closure of all the primary schools in Jammu & Kashmir till March 31. Biometric attendance across the UT stands suspended and “no large social/official gathering” will be allowed until March 31, the authorities said.
In order to spread awareness, a special Covid-19 mobile phone caller-tune, with basic infection prevention messages, has been launched by all telecom operators. Over 117.2 crore subscribers of BSNL, MTNL, Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone-Idea are being reached out to through SMSs and call backs.
The Ayush minister issued a second “advisory” for infection prevention, but withdrew it. An earlier one had been criticised for publicising unsubstantiated information about a virus of which very little is known.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines