India braces to stop coronavirus outbreak; steps up monitoring

Three novel coronavirus cases have been reported so far from Kerala, all three are clinically stable, the health minister said.
The government has cancelled all existing visas for foreign nationals travelling from China.

Minister for health and family welfare Harsh Vardhan made a suo moto statement in the Lok Sabha on Monday on the outbreak of novel coronavirus in China and some other countries. He briefed the house on the steps taken by the government of India to prevent a similar outbreak in the country. Three cases have been reported so far from Kerala, the minister said adding that all three people have visited Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the outbreak. All three are clinically stable, the minister said.

The government has taken a series of measures to contain the disease. A group of ministers chaired by Mr Vardhan is monitoring the situation. The panel has ministers of external affairs, civil aviation, ministers of state for home affairs, shipping and health as members. The cabinet secretary is taking daily review meetings with officials of all related ministries. The health ministry is constantly reviewing the situation through video conferences with state government officials.

The government has cancelled all existing visas for foreign nationals travelling from China. People seeking urgent visits have been asked to get in touch with Indian embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Indian citizens are being discouraged to travel to China through an advisory. Those who undertake China visits will be quarantined on return.

Air passengers are being screened at 21 airports including those at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi and thermal screening has been made mandatory for all flights from Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and China. In all, 1,97,192 passengers from 1818 flights have been screened till date. Specialist doctors are deployed at airports to conduct screening and arrange for isolation in hospitals.

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Passengers at all seaports are also being scanned to identify passengers and crew coming from China and isolate them. The government has started screening at all check posts from Nepal in collaboration with state governments after confirmation of a case in that country.

Coronaviruses are found in humans and animals. Animal corona viruses are capable of evolving and infecting people like in the case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2014. The outbreak of novel coronavirus was reported first on December 31, 2019. The outbreak, first reported in Wuhan city in Hubei Province, spread to all Chinese provinces in a short span of time.

At least 811 deaths have been reported in China till Sunday, while a total of 37198 confirmed cases have been reported. About 354 cases have been reported in 27 countries outside China. The WHO has declared coronavirus outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.