New Delhi: India has stepped up vigil at border checkpoints, airports and alerted hotels in states bordering Nepal, where the first confirmed case of coronavirus infection was reported on 24 January, to prevent the spread of the deadly virus that has killed 81 people in China and infected 3,000 around the world.
“We have advised the states to coordinate with hotels’ associations for wider self-reporting by travellers from Nepal visiting religious and other tourist places," said Preeti Sudan, secretary in the ministry of health and family welfare.
The rapid spread of the flu-like virus that originated in China has rattled governments and investors around the world. Concerns about the impact of the virus on the world economy sent stocks, oil and currencies tumbling on Monday. In India, the BSE Sensex fell 1.1% to 41,155.12 points even as the rupee hit a near three-week low against the dollar.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average erased its advance for the year on Monday, while the S&P 500 Index slid the most in almost four months. In China, financial markets will now remain closed until next Monday after authorities extended the Lunar New Year break by three days as they grapple with the worsening health crisis.
Though no confirmed infections have been detected in India so far, suspected cases from Hyderabad, Jaipur, Chapra in Bihar, Bengaluru and Kerala are under observation. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought a special flight to Wuhan in China to airlift stranded Indians.
Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba on Monday reviewed the state of coronavirus preparedness in a meeting, where it was decided to prepare for an evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan. The ministry of external affairs will make a request to China, and the civil aviation ministry and the health ministry will make arrangements for transport and quarantine facilities, respectively, a government statement said.
India has reviewed protocols that need to be adhered to for screening people, reporting suspected cases, setting up of isolation wards and availability of protective gear for health personnel, said Sudan.
“Till the virus was within China, other countries, including India, were not much worried but as it has moved out of China, the situation globally has become critical with increasing deaths and cases," said Sunil Gupta, a microbiologist and infectious diseases expert. “India is taking appropriate steps to prevent any outbreak here."
With both Nepal and Thailand reporting confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, the disease is almost at India’s borders. The WHO has urged countries to remain vigilant and strengthen readiness to rapidly detect new cases and prevent its spread.