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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Screening stepped up as coronavirus reaches Delhi and Hyderabad

The new cases mark the first instance in the country of the virus being reported from outside Kerala, where three students returning from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak, were found to have been infected.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: March 3, 2020 6:55:51 am
Workers walk with garbage after cleaning an isolation ward at a hospital for observing people suspected to have a new coronavirus infection in Kochi (AP)

Taking the number of coronavirus cases in India to five, two new infections have been detected — one in Delhi and the other in Hyderabad, officials said. Both the patients, who are undergoing treatment and are “stable”, recently travelled to countries affected by COVID-19, they said.

In a third suspected case, officials in Rajasthan said an Italian tourist has tested positive for the virus. However, they said, the patient’s blood samples are being sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune since the positive test came after a preliminary test that was negative.

The patient in Delhi, who is currently in the isolation ward of Safdarjung Hospital, had travelled to Italy, which is one of the hardest-hit nations with 1,694 cases and 34 deaths. Officials said he had returned to Delhi on an Air India flight from Vienna on February 25.

The patient in Hyderabad had returned last week from Dubai, where 19 cases have been reported.

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In both cases — they were self-reported — health officials have started contacting the patients’ family members and colleagues to trace who they came in contact with, including crew members of the Air India flight who have been asked to remain in isolation at their homes for 14 days.

The new cases mark the first instance in the country of the virus being reported from outside Kerala, where three students returning from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak, were found to have been infected. All the three — the first case was reported on January 30 — have been discharged from hospitals after treatment.

Officials said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a meeting with top officials Tuesday to review the situation. “We are monitoring the evolving global scenario. Restrictions may be further extended to other countries, as per the situation,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.

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The government is working out modalities to evacuate Indians from Italy and Iran, which has also been hit by the virus with 1,501 cases and 66 deaths so far.

The government has also extended the universal screening of air passengers arriving in the country to include Iran and Italy, apart from China, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Nepal and Indonesia. It has advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Singapore, South Korea, Iran and Italy.

People coming from South Korea, Iran and Italy, or having a travel history in these countries since February 10, 2020, may be quarantined for 14 days on arrival to India.

Health officials have also put in place a four-pronged containment plan that cover travel-related cases, local transmission, community transmission and the possibility of the outbreak turning endemic.

In Delhi, officials said, the patient’s infection was first detected in RML Hospital. They said he contacted the helpline after finding symptoms of the COVID infection.

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In Hyderabad, officials said four persons who landed at the international airport Sunday were screened after they showed symptoms of the virus. While three tested negative, one tested positive and has been admitted in the isolation ward at the government hospital at Koti.

Telangana Health Minister Etela Rajender said the patient arrived in Hyderabad from Dubai on February 20, and went to Bengaluru on February 22 where he worked for five days before returning by bus on February 27.

By then, the patient was running a high fever, which prompted him to visit Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad where he was treated for two days. With the fever not subsiding, he was referred to Gandhi Hospital in the city where tests turned positive.

Referring to the two new cases, the Health Ministry said that “both the patients are stable and being closely monitored”.

In Jaipur, Rohit Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary, Health, said the tourist has been admitted to the isolation ward of Sawai Man Singh hospital. He was staying in a hotel in Jaipur and was admitted in a private hospital from where he was referred to a government hospital.

Referring to the national containment plan, officials said the foreign influx situation hinges on screening at airports, seaports and land borders. The emphasis for local transmission, they said, is on active surveillance in a containment zone with contact tracing within and outside, expansion of lab facilities, provision for medical care, implementation of social distancing measures and intensive risk communication.

Also Monday, the GoM on COVID-19 met for the third time, with its chairman Harsh Vardhan saying that passengers are being screened at 21 airports, 12 major seaports and 65 minor seaports and land crossings particularly bordering Nepal.

So far 5,57,431 passengers have been screened at airports, and 12,431 at seaports. Moreover, 25,738 passengers are under community surveillance. Fifteen labs are functional and 19 more will be made operational soon, he said.

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