Passengers arriving from Ebola-hit countries will now be allowed to enter India at only seven airports — Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
Union Health Secretary Luv Verma said a communication in this regard had already been sent to the Ministry of External Affairs. “In any case, we found that 95 per cent of the passengers disembark at these airports,” Verma said. He added that the strategy was in line with the US protocol to check the spread of the disease. Health officials said the new rules would also apply on passengers who have used transit flights on their way to India. They added that the matter has been referred to civil aviation authorities and concerned airlines.
Sources said the restrictions were aimed at streamlining the screening process and ensuring a thorough scan of passengers. For example, Maharashtra authorities conducted a follow-up exercise on 221 passengers who had visited these countries following the outbreak.
When contacted, Sujata Sounik, state principal health secretary, said a new virus was a challenge to the entire health system. “While there are efforts around the world to prepare a new vaccine, newer drugs and introduce new protocols, we at our end are doing all that we can to prevent the virus from entering the country. Since there is no cure it is a bit scary, but at the end of the day, research on drug development is underway at breakneck speed and we will be soon able to manage this disease,” Sounik told The Indian Express. She added that the government has insisted that basic protocols should be followed and is also focusing on good isolation facilities.
Notably, the Emergency Medicine Relief (EMR) department of the Health Ministry recently held a video-conference with health secretaries of 15 states to discuss new measures to prevent the Ebola virus from entering the country. The EMR has also called for training rapid response teams in rural areas.