So far the government has only been screening passengers arriving from four countries
Public health experts have seen the move as 'practical' as people travelling from other countries can also be carriers of the disease
In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday directed airports and airlines to screen passengers arriving in flights from Japan and South Korea once they step out of the aerobridge. So far the government is only screening passengers arriving from four countries i.e. Thailand, Singapore, China and Hong Kong for possible exposure to the deadly coronavirus at 21 identified airports in India.
“Universal screening of all the passengers coming in flights directly from Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore besides the flights from China and Hong Kong shall be ensured immediately once they step out of the specific identified aerobridge," DGCA said in a circular.
“It is advised to place the suitable signages at strategic locations at all the airports and getting the self-declaration form filled by the passengers as per the instructions of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," the circular further stated.
Public health experts have seen the move as “practical" as people travelling from other countries can also be carriers of the disease. “People who have a travel itinerary which (in part) included China but are now traveling from a different country, can be carriers. The concern for India is real. There is limited land traffic from China, the largest volumes being via air or sea. In the light of the same, measures that need to be taken to establish screening centers at upto 3-4 ports of entry with the relevant manpower for screening and quarantine. Then mandating all flights from China to be routed through there," Debanshu Roy, a health economist at the University of Chicago Centre in Delhi.
Passengers must be informed in advance that this will increase their travel time and based on screening results they might be referred to a local health setup for quarantine , leading to additional delays.While at it, declaration should also be made by the state leadership that this is not because we have low confidence in the Chinese measures already being taken, but additional measures are being taken in the interest of National Security," he said.
Ministry of health and family welfare has been closely monitoring the situation. In a meeting convened by health secretary Preeti Sudan on Friday through video conferencing, the States/UTs reported that the protocols and guidelines issued are being followed to avoid any eventuality. They further informed that the sufficient stocks for Personal Protection Equipments and masks have been procured. States of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim bordering Nepal have been advised to strengthen the disease surveillance, the ministry said in an official statement.
India currently has three coronavirus positive cases all being treated in Kerala. The Union Health Ministry on Friday said that one of the three cases have now been tested negative for the virus and has been discharged from the isolation facility however the patients will have to be home quarantined for next 14 days.
“A patient, a student from Wuhan University, who tested positive for the COVID19 thereby becoming the country’s second such case, was on Thursday discharged from the isolation ward of the Alappuzha Medical College hospital, Kerala," said Preeti Sudan, secretary, ministry of health and family welfare. Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac on Friday said Kerala has “won the fight over Corona" since all three patients tested positive for the virus have fully recovered
“Just as in the case of Nipah, Kerala has won battle with Corona Virus. All the 3 patients identified have been confirmed by Central authorities to have fully recovered. No case of secondary spread. Number under quarantine observation drastically coming down.Congats Health Dept," he tweeted.
Kerala health minister KK Shailaja, speaking to journalists on Thursday, said that the patient will be home quarantined until 26 February. “I spoke to him over the phone and he is quite well. We are releasing him because all further tests for the virus reported negative results so far," she said.
The patient came to Kerala from China on 24 January and was put in a isolation ward since 30 January, after testing positive for the virus. In the rest of Kerala, 2397 people continue to be in home-quarantine and 1040 people were removed from observation as of Thursday.
The World Health Organisation has already declared COVID-19 as a global public health emergency with number of cases and deaths unabated.
According to the Johns Hopkins university’s live tracker for the diseases, there are 64,447 positive cases across the world mostly in mainland China with 1384 people died of the coronavirus disease.
Rhik Kundu contributed to this story
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