One more case of novel coronavirus was confirmed in Ghaziabad in the national capital region on Thursday, taking the total number of those testing positive for COVID-19 in the country to 30, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Brussels on March 13 for India-EU summit was called off in the wake of the global outbreak. A 16-year-old Indian girl in UAE has also tested positive for coronavirus.
The Ghaziabad patient had recently traveled to Iran and has been sent to a Delhi hospital for further treatment, said District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey. “The administration tracked him down three days ago. The patient’s wife and child have been kept in observation at home. Another sample of a local has been sent who had also traveled to an infected region,” Pandey said.
As per the latest update by the Health Ministry, a total of 6,49,452 passengers have been screened at airports across the country to date from 6550 flights.
Health Minister briefs Parliament on govt measures
The issue reverberated in the Parliament also, with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan saying the scale of interventions had been increased in line with the evolving situation in India, where 28,529 persons have been brought under community surveillance and monitoring.
With an estimated 1,200 Indians stranded in Iran in view of the coronavirus outbreak, Harsh Vardhan told the Parliament on Thursday India was in touch with the West Asian nation regarding evacuation of Indian pilgrims and students.
“The government is following up with Iran to tie-up evacuation of Indian pilgrims and students stranded in Tehran and Qom as per need,” Vardhan said in the Rajya Sabha. Iran has reported 92 deaths among its more than 2,900 cases.
Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar said a medical team would reach Iran on Thursday for screening and a clinic would be set up at Qom by evening. “Screening process will start immediately thereafter. Working on logistics of return with Iranian authorities,” Jaishankar tweeted.
Two airlines, Iran Air and Mahan Air, have stopped operating flights to Delhi and Mumbai since February 28 after India prohibited flights from Iran as a precautionary measure against coronavirus. Last week, a scientist from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune was sent to Iran to facilitate the testing of stranded Indian citizens for coronavirus infection.
Update for Indians stranded in #Iran and for their families: Our medical team for screening arrives in Iran today. Hope to establish first clinic at Qom by this evening. Screening process will start immediately thereafter. Working on logistics of return with Iranian authorities.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) March 5, 2020
‘Besides NiV-Pune, testing initiated in 15 more labs’
Many Parliamentarians could be seen wearing face masks in the House on Thursday. Amid the discussion on coronavirus in the Lok Sabha, DMK MP Kanimozhi said one virology institute in the country was not enough. “There is only one virology institute in Pune. It is not enough. We should have this institute in different zones of the country,” she said.
To this, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said besides the National Insititute of Virology in Pune, testing of clinical samples had also been initiated in 15 more laboratories. “Another 19 laboratories are being prepared to test samples to ensure adequate geographical spread across the country. The network is being further expanded,” Harsh Vardhan said.
Thanks @drharshvardhan for a comprehensive briefing to the LokSabha on India’s preparedness for the coronavirus & measures undertaken so far. Here are the questions i was raising my hand to ask, but did not have a chance to: [thread follows]
Later in the day, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted a list of questions for the Health Minister, saying he did not get a chance to raise them in the House. “Can you assure the country that we are not underestimating the level of infection in India because of the shortage of diagnostic facilities? The only institute equipped to test for coronavirus is the NationalInstitute of Virology, Pune. How many samples can they test in a day?” Tharoor said.
Primary classes of all Delhi schools to be shut till March 31
To prevent the possibility of the spread of coronavirus, the Delhi government has ordered the immediate closure of primary schools in the national capital till March 31. Primary Classes (I to V) of all Kendriya Vidyalayas in Delhi will also remain shut till March 31.
“As a precautionary measure to prevent the possibility of spread of COVID-19 amongst our children, Delhi Government has directed the immediate closure of all primary schools (Govt/ aided/ private/MCD/NDMC) till 31/3/20,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted.
The Delhi government also asked the head of departments (HoDs), autonomous bodies and municipal corporations to suspend the biometric attendance system as a precautionary measure.
Health ministry asks states to form rapid response teams
On Thursday, the Union Health Ministry asked states to form rapid response teams at the district, block, and village levels, stating cases of community transmission have been observed.
“Since some cases of community transmission have also been observed, it has been decided to involve district collectors and states have been asked to form rapid response teams as the district, block, and village levels,” the ministry said.
The 30 infected by the coronavirus include 16 Italian tourists and their driver, three people in Kerala (who have recovered), one in Hyderabad, one in Ghaziabad, two in New Delhi and six in Agra. The six who contracted the infection in Agra are relatives of the 45-year-old man from East Delhi who tested positive on Tuesday. They are all being treated at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi.
India imposes additional visa restrictions
Meanwhile, India has imposed additional visa restrictions on people traveling from or having visited Italy and South Korea, making it mandatory for them to submit a certificate of having tested negative for COVID-19 from laboratories authorised by the health authorities of their countries, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday.
This will come into effect from March 10 and is a temporary measure till cases of novel coronavirus subside, the ministry said in a travel advisory. The government has already suspended all regular visas/e-visas granted on or before March 3 to nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan who have not yet entered India.
Infection doesn’t spread through chicken, seafood, says FSSAI
Amid apprehensions that the infection could spread through eating chicken, mutton, and seafood, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) CEO said there was a misconception about it. FSSAI chief G S G Ayyangar said on Thursday the virus would not survive in higher temperatures.
As summer approaches, scientists are watching whether the novel coronavirus will be affected by temperature. Temperature did affect the spread of the SARS-CoV infection, which also spreads by droplets like COVID-19. On the other hand, the MERS coronavirus spread in Saudi Arabia in the month of August. So, it's too early to say whether heat will kill the coronavirus.
“There is no scientific evidence to show that coronavirus spreads through eating chicken, mutton, and seafood. It is basically an animal virus. Ours is a tropical country and once the temperature crosses 35-36 degrees celsius, no virus will survive,” PTI quoted Ayyangar as saying.
Two in Telangana test negative for COVID-19
Telangana Health Minister E Rajender on Thursday said two samples from the state tested negative for coronavirus (COVID-19) after the duo’s samples were sent for a second round of tests — and confirmation — to National Institute of Virology, Pune.
Both persons tested positive in the first round of testing at Gandhi Hospital here. Earlier this week, a 24-year-old man from Hyderabad had tested positive for coronavirus and was isolated.
With this, the government has confirmed that none of the 86 primary contacts of the lone positive Covid-19 patient had contracted the virus. On Thursday, the government directed them to remain under isolation for a period of 28 days.
Five kept in isolation ward in Bengaluru test negative for coronavirus
Meanwhile, the five people who were kept in isolation wards of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases in Bengaluru have tested negative for coronavirus. According to Karnataka Health Department officials, the five people include a colleague of the 24-year-old techie who had tested positive for the virus in Hyderabad and an Iranian national who had traveled to the city.
Karnataka warns of action against sellers for hiking price of masks
Amid escalating paranoia around coronavirus, the Karnataka Health department warned of strict action against sellers and manufacturers who were selling masks and sanitizers costlier than the MRP.
Speaking to the reporters, Karnataka Minister for Medical Education Dr K Sudhakar said, “People can complain to 104 Arogya Sahayavani (call center) regarding the increase in the price of mask and hand sanitizer. No one should take advantage of a situation like this. Once a complaint is received, we will take strict action against the sellers.”
As per the latest bulletin by the Karnataka Health department, 695 persons have been identified for observation so far. Of them, 225 persons have completed 28 days of observation and 461 persons are under home quarantine. Five people are admitted to the hospital. To date, 321 samples have been sent for testing out of which 273 samples reported negative.
With the government announcing that all passengers arriving in India would have to undergo thermal screening, checking at Bengaluru and Mangaluru airports have been stepped up. To date, 68,717 passengers have been screened in Karnataka. The Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru has screened 46,569 passengers and Mangalore International airport has screened 22,139 passengers.
Manipur suspends biometric attendance system
Coming to the northeast, in Manipur, Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Thursday announced the suspension of biometric attendance system for one month in the state till March 30 in all state government offices and secretariats. There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, the CM said.
The Chief Minister also said the state government would introduce “self-declaration forms” for all visitors at the entry points, including Moreh town, bordering Myanmar. In addition to the isolation wards set up at RIMS and JNIMS hospital, Biren Singh said more such facilities would be set up at border areas like Moreh, Mao, Jiribam (Manipur-Assam border) and also quarantine facilities at Integrated Check Post (ICP) in Moreh and Jiribam.
Currently, the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) has set up an isolation ward consisting of eight beds with four ventilators while an isolation ward consisting of six beds with one ventilator is ready at JNIMS hospital.
Concerned over the approaching Yaoshang festival, the CM advised the people to take extreme caution and avoid mass gathering. “I appeal to the people to undertake basic self preventive measures such as washing hands regularly, using masks during the Yaoshang festival,” Singh said. Yaoshang, the Manipur version of Holi, is celebrated for five days.
The Chief Minister also said that a 24×7 control room had started functioning and released a toll-free number 0385-2411668. A dedicated ambulance has been kept on standby for the transportation of suspected patients.
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