Two leading private schools in Noida shut for the week, extensive fumigation of a five-star hotel in south Delhi, 42 people traced and more being tracked down across two states — the measures that have been taken after a coronavirus case was detected in Delhi Monday illustrate the daunting challenge that authorities face in tackling the outbreak.
The 45-year-old patient had visited Italy last month, and returned to Delhi on an Air India flight from Vienna along with two of his family members on February 25. It was only a day later that India started screening for air passengers from Italy, one of the most affected nations with over 2,000 positive cases so far.
Over the next four days, before he reported himself at RML Hospital on February 29 with symptoms, the patient hosted a party for at least seven people, including another family and three children, in the restaurant of Hyatt Regency, sources told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, the patient’s two brothers-in-law, who had accompanied him on the flight from Vienna, visited their relatives in Agra. Doctors have now detected “a high viral load” in six of those relatives, whose samples have been sent for testing to the National Institute of Virology in Pune, including four who have developed fever. The six have been placed in isolation, officials said.
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On March 1, the patient was moved from RML Hospital to the isolation ward of Safdarjung Hospital after testing positive.
Officials told The Indian Express that a “massive exercise” is underway across Delhi and UP to trace all contacts of the patient, who is a resident of Mayur Vihar. They said that 42 people with immediate links have so far been traced, including 20 from his family and 22 doctors and paramedical staff at RML Hospital. All of them have tested negative.
Those monitored are: Five members in his family, including two children who study in the same school in Noida; the seven people who attended the party, including another child from another school in Noida; staff at the hotel; and his colleagues, including an accountant and his family who currently have fever and other symptoms.
“The person spent nine days in Italy and came back on February 25 on the same flight as his two brothers-in-law. He developed a sore throat on February 27 and hosted friends at the hotel the next day. The children present at the hotel are from two Noida schools. We have reached out to both schools but not asked them to shut down…that is the schools’ decision. Fumigation is on and once that is completed, students can return but parents should watch out for symptoms over the next 14 days. We have also tested the patient’s domestic staff, including the driver who drove him from the airport. The six people in Agra with high viral load are from the families of his relatives there,” said a senior official.
At both schools, annual exams for students between classes 6 and 8 have been postponed but CBSE board examinations will take place as scheduled.
In a statement, Hyatt Regency said: “Government authorities recently confirmed that an individual who dined at La Piazza restaurant at Hyatt Regency Delhi on February 28, 2020, has been diagnosed with COVID-19… as advised by the authorities, the hotel has enacted elevated precautionary operational protocols, including deep-cleaning measures in the restaurant, colleague lockers and in all public areas, restaurants and meeting spaces across the hotel. All colleagues who were present at the restaurant on February 28 have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. Hyatt Regency Delhi has also started to conduct daily temperature checks for all colleagues and contractors when they enter and exit the building. At this time, we do not have any confirmed cases to report among our colleagues.”
Gautam Buddh Nagar (Noida) Chief Medical Officer Anurag Bhargava told The Indian Express: “We have set up a 20-bed isolation ward in the government hospital and have asked residents to approach in the event they show symptoms. The children that came into contact have not shown any symptoms and we have sent 25 samples for testing. So far, none of the samples have returned positive and we are awaiting all results.”
Additionally, Air India has reached out to passengers on that flight to follow advisories issued by Health Ministry in case they developed symptoms. The airline had Monday asked the crew on the flight to be in quarantine at their homes for 14 days and inform authorities if they developed symptoms.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said the state government is “prepared to deal with any emergency”. “We have created a special facility in 25 hospitals in Delhi — 19 government and six private. A total of 230 beds have been kept aside to deal with suspected cases. But there is no need to be scared. We need to take precautionary measures, such as washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with an infected person and covering the face at dusty locations. We have more than 3.5 lakh N-95 masks and over 8,000 separation kits for medical professionals,” he said.
(With Aastha Saxena)