As the number of coronavirus cases saw a jump across the globe, the government in India has put in place multiple precautionary measures in order to tackle the outbreak. The total number of cases in India stands at 73, as per the Union Health Ministry. This includes the 3 recovered patients in Kerala and a batch of 16 Italian tourists.
The ripple effect of the coronavirus was seen in the global markets as well, which were trading in the red. Domestic stock markets suffered sharp losses on Thursday, with the Nifty 50 benchmark index slipping below the 10,000 mark for the first time in two years. The losses followed a selloff in global markets after the US announced a temporary travel ban from Europe in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
List of steps taken by India in the battle against coronavirus
India suspends visas
In an unprecedented move, India decided to suspend all visas, barring select categories, till April 15, effectively closing its borders for a month. It means that no foreign tourists can enter India for over a month now, affecting an already stressed economy. Several sporting events, including the IPL and the India Open badminton tournament were also scheduled to start this month.
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/ international organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure. Visa free travel facility granted to OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card holders is kept in abeyance till April 15th, 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure. Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission,” the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement.
‘Invoke provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897’
The Centre also advised all states and Union territories to invoke provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which will enable them to enforce advisories as and when needed. The Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera.
Section 2 of the Act states: “When at any time the (state government) is satisfied that (the state) or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the (state government), if (it) thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by, the public or by any person or class of persons as (it) shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.”
Treatment for coronavirus
There is no specific treatment. Patients are mostly given medicines for symptomatic relief — for example, paracetamol to bring down fever, sometimes medicines for relief from pain. Care is also taken to ensure they stay hydrated. The mortality of the virus is a little over 3%, and for most patients the body’s own immune system succeeds in fighting the virus.
Travellers from selected countries to be quarantined
It also decided that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals from COVID-19 nations – China Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany — after February 15, shall be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure. The health ministry has said employers should facilitate work-from-home for such employees during this period.
Kerala: Schools, cinemas shut till March 31
The Pinarayi Vijayan government has announced the closure of all educational institutions and cinema halls till March 31. The chief minister has also advised the citizens to avoid mass gatherings and to not go to the Sabarimala temple which is set to re-open on March 13. All government-related functions have been postponed. Health Minister K K Shaylaja also said that “hiding travel history will be treated as a crime and proper action will be taken”.
Barring Rajasthan, where the Italian tourists were infected, Kerala has the highest number of patients in the country as well as the youngest patient — a three-year-old was tested positive.
Restrictions on land borders
Advising Indian nationals to avoid non-essential travel, the ministry said: “International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated check posts with robust screening facilities”.
Tripura also announced that it would close down Border Haats with Bangladesh as a precautionary measure. Earlier, Manipur had shut down border points with Myanmar to prevent the possible spread of the disease. In Tripura, a Bangladeshi national with high fever was sent back from the Akhaura International Check-Post (ICP) and denied entry into India.
Arunachal Pradesh also suspended the Protected Area Permits (PAPs) to foreigners to limit those entering the state. Sikkim had also announced similar curbs on the visit of foreigners.
Schools, colleges shut
The coronavirus scare has forced the closure of schools and colleges in many parts of the country. Delhi has shut its primary schools till March 31. Kashmir and Ladakh has shut its schools and colleges. In Maharashtra, which has 10 active cases, a few schools have been shut amid the outbreak.
Haryana declares COVID-19 as epidemic
Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij on Thursday said that the state has declared the coronavirus outbreak as epidemic. “Covid -19 ( Corona Virus Disease ) declared epidemic in Haryana,” he tweeted.
Indians can return from COVID-hit countries only after corona-negative certificate
On March 10, the Director-General of Civil Aviation issued a circular that a certificate that those persons wanting to travel from Italy and Korea to India should get a certificate from those nations that they had tested negative for Covid-19. As several Indians, including those from Kerala, have been held up in Rome for want of this certificate, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to PM Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to get this direction withdrawn.
The government has now decided to send a medical team to Italy to test Indians stranded there ahead of their evacuation.
Universal screening for all international passengers
The government has begun screening all passengers arriving upon their arrival at international airports and sea-ports. The passengers will have to pass through thermal screening as well as mandatory fill the declaration forms of places visited. Before this, the Centre also asked states to form rapid response teams at the district, block and village levels. It said that cases of community transmission have been observed.
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