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Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan at a meeting to review preparedness regarding coronavirus (Photo: @MoHFW_INDIA on Twitter)
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan at a meeting to review preparedness regarding coronavirus (Photo: @MoHFW_INDIA on Twitter)

11 people under observation for coronavirus, PMO holds high-level meeting

  • Govt formed multidisciplinary central teams that will be sent to the seven states where thermal screening is being done at seven designated airports
  • PMO also reviews various preventive measures taken by ministries like Civil Aviation to deal with coronavirus

New Delhi: Central government on Saturday said that it is ensuring special screening for Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) in Uttarakhand that shares border with Nepal where a confirmed nCoV case has been reported.

Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare spoke with the chief minister of the state to extend all possible help for screening measures.

The Union health ministry has also formed multidisciplinary central teams that will be sent to the seven states where thermal screening is being done at the seven designated airports (New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi). The central team shall consist of a public health expert, a clinician and a microbiologist.

“The teams shall reach the respective states tomorrow. They shall review the end-to-end preparedness for management and control of nCoV in the states including that at the airports, for thermal screening and transferring of patients to hospitals for isolation, and shall also visit the tertiary hospitals attached to the airports for reviewing the isolation wards and availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and masks etc," said Harsh Vardhan.

“They shall also review whether the infection control, surveillance and other guidelines are being followed. The teams shall coordinate with the State Health Secretaries to explore all avenues for further supporting and strengthening the states’ preparedness," he said.

The health minister also held a high level review meeting with senior officers of the Health Ministry, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to analyse the current situation, preparedness and steps being taken for prevention and management of (nCoV) in India.

“The situation is being closely monitored at the highest level for adequate preparedness. All the officials of my Ministry, concerned departments and States/UTs have been put on high alert for Novel Coronavirus," said Harsh Vardhan.

““No nCoV case has been detected in the country so far. However, eleven (11) persons have been put under observation; out of samples taken from these 11 individuals, samples of four passengers have been confirmed to be negative for nCoV by the ICMR-NIV Pune lab," said the health minister. We are taking all required possible precautions to manage all possible scenarios," he said.

The Union Health Ministry is also in touch with Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, World Health Organisation (WHO), SEARO for technical support and guidance in the matter.

The health minister has also written to the Chief Ministers of all the states requesting for their personal intervention to review the preparedness for control and management of nCoV.

The government has also made operational a 24x7 NCDC Call Centre (+91-11-23978046) that will monitor the list of contacts furnished by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA); provide details of district and state surveillance officers to those who seek them; and in case of any clinical query, direct the concerned to the relevant Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) officer," the Harsh Vardhan said.

The government is also urging the passengers who have a travel history to China since 1 January, 2020 to come forward for self-reporting to the nearest health facility if they experience any symptoms such as fever, cough, respiratory distress etc. and also inform their treating doctor.

“Various steps have been taken up and continual efforts are being made by Health Ministry in close coordination with Ministry of Civil Aviation, MEA, State Governments and WHO. Close monitoring is being undertaken for all the passengers who are arriving from China and Hong Kong across 7 International Airports in India," he said.

The (nCoV) is a new virus strain that has not been previously identified in humans, which are believed to be transmitted from animals to people. The first case was identified in China’s Wuhan on 31st December.

While scientists are still trying to find out the cause of the virus, findings of a study published in the Journal of Medical Virology suggested that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV. According to reports at least 41 deaths have been reported from China.

In order to review the preparedness measures for prevention and management of any Coronavirus cases in the country, P.K. Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister on Saturday chaired a high level meeting.

During the meeting, that was ordered by PM Narendra Modi, the officials apprised the Principal Secretary on the recent developments, preparedness and response measures taken by various Ministries and the States with regard to the spread of Coronavirus.

Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) briefed the Principal Secretary on the hospital preparedness, laboratory preparedness, measures taken for capacity building of the Rapid Response Teams and the extensive surveillance activities undertaken by the Ministry to deal with any possible exigencies.

The Principal Secretary also reviewed the various preventive measures taken by other Ministries like the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

“The officials assured the Principal Secretary that the situation is being closely monitored by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in close coordination with various other union ministries as well as State governments and Union Territories. So far, more than 20,000 passengers from 115 flights at 7 international airports have been screened," government said in an official statement.

National Institute of Virology, Pune labs are fully equipped to test the virus. All state and district health authorities have been alerted and are in a state of preparedness for prevention and possible management, if required.

Cabinet Secretary, Secretary (Home Affairs), Secretary (External Affairs), Secretary (Defence), Secretary (Health and Family Welfare), Secretary (Civil Aviation)," it said.

The union Health Ministry on Saturday again issued a travel advisory to those visiting China from India or coming back from there in the wake of the outbreak of the contagious novel coronavirus.

The ministry urged the travellers to cut their further travelling plans in case they felt sick and had fever, cough and cold. It also gave various helpline numbers in case of sickness or help required.

The advisory stated that travellers to China are advised to avoid all "no-essential travel to China" and to "avoid close contact with people showing symptoms of illness such as cough, running nose etc".

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