Even as the World Health Organization urged countries in South-East Asia to remain vigilant against the novel coronavirus and strengthen the readiness to rapidly detect any case of importation, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba reviewed India’s preparedness on Monday.
It was decided in the meeting that steps may be taken to prepare for the possible evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan, said sources. Accordingly, Ministry of External Affairs will request Chinese authorities and Ministry of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Health will make arrangements for transport and quarantine facilities, respectively, the sources said.
The meeting was attended by secretaries from ministries of Health, External Affairs, Civil Aviation, Labour, Defence and I&B, Member-Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority and DG (Armed Forces Medical Services). The meeting was informed that so far 33,552 passengers from 155 flights from China and Hong Kong have been screened. No case has been reported in India so far.
The Shipping Ministry, it is learnt, has been asked to start screening ports which have traffic from China and the Ministry of Civil Aviation has been asked to distribute health cards to all passengers travelling from China, ensure in-flight announcements and instruct airlines on reporting illness.
The Home Ministry has been asked to ensure that integrated checkposts initiate screening of visitors across Nepal the border. States have been requested to provide health staff for these checkposts.
In another meeting, Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan spoke to chief secretaries and DGPs of five states bordering Nepal — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim — over video conference.
One confirmed infection of novel coronavirus has been reported in Nepal. Sudan reviewed the preparedness of these bordering states in terms of the orientation of health and other agencies, adherence to prevention and management protocols and awareness regarding prevention of coronavirus among the people being screened and those transiting the border with Nepal.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Health Research Secretary Dr Balram Bhargava, NDMA member secretary G V V Sarma and officials from the civil aviation, shipping and other ministries also took part in the meeting.
During the meeting, the state governments informed the Centre that orientation of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), medical personnel and health officials have been conducted and awareness drives are being undertaken through loudspeakers, distribution of leaflets and signages at border check posts. Sudan asked for special Gram Sabhas to be organised in coordination with the Department of Panchayati Raj this week for enhancing awareness regarding the coronavirus, symptoms of infection, preventive measures, reporting etc in border villages.
Bhalla interacted with DGPs of the states and guided them on key steps to be taken up in the border areas in coordination with the Health Department. The Shipping Ministry informed that necessary communication has been sent to national port authorities.
“It is time to focus all efforts on readiness guided by whatever is known about the new coronavirus,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region. Besides Nepal, Thailand, also a part of the WHO South-East Asia region has reported a confirmed case of infection.
Meanwhile, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it is immediately committing $10 million in emergency funds and corresponding technical support to help frontline responders in China and Africa accelerate their efforts to contain the global spread of the novel coronavirus.
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