Home / Science / Health /  Coronavirus: Government to form rapid response team at district level

New Delhi: The government has decided to adopt a micro- level approach to detect coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in India, such as setting up district-level rapid response teams, as the disease is no longer limited to travel-related cases in the country.

The health ministry has also appealed to the private sector to help check the fast spread of the virus.

“Since, in addition to COVID 19 cases related to travel, some cases of community transmission have also been observed, it has been decided to involve district collectors and States have been asked to form rapid response teams as the district, block and village levels," health minister Harsh Vardhan told Parliament on Thursday.

“We have designated District Collector as the nodal officer at field level for containment operations. States have been guided in terms of identifying containment zone, buffer zone and preparation of micro plan to ensure effective active and passive surveillance and contact tracing through inter-disciplinary teams in the areas where cases are located," he said.

As of now, 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, have been detected in the country. Of these, three from Kerala have recovered and have been discharged. The government has made universal screening mandatory since Wednesday and said additional staff has been provided by states at airports. “Private sector shall also be engaged for COVID-19 management. The ministry is meeting key partners in the evening today. A total of 3542 samples have been sent for testing, of which 29 have been found to be positive for COVID-19 till now. Testing of 92 samples is in process and 23 samples are being reconfirmed," Harsh Vardhan said.

Meanwhile, the union health ministry has issued guidelines to support states on surveillance and contact tracing, surveillance at points of entry, laboratory samples collection, packaging and transport, clinical management protocol and infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities. To ensure availability of critical items like Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) and N95 masks, the exports of the same was also restricted. A buffer stock of personal protective equipments and N95 masks is maintained by states as well as Union Government.

Since most recently cases have been noticed in the national capital, the Delhi government has also ensured steps to keep the deadly virus at bay. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government on Thursday directed all primary schools to be shut until 31 March, in the wake of coronavirus. “As a precautionary measure to prevent the possibility of spread of COVID-19 amongst our children, Delhi Government has directed immediate closure of all primary schools (Govt/ aided/ private/MCD/NDMC) till 31/3/20," deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said in a tweet. Sisodia also heads the state's education department.

Delhi government also directed all its departments to suspend the biometric attendance system in view of coronavirus scare “in the interest" of the all staff stating the contagious COVID-19 causes respiratory infection, can transfer from human to human on their touch of common object.

Meanwhile, 14 Italians who tested positive for COVID-19, were shifted to the Medanta Hospital in Gurugram from an Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) quarantine centre. The hospital issued a statement on Thursday, saying these patients are housed on a completely separate floor, which has been quarantined and has no contact with the rest of the hospital.

There is a dedicated medical team wearing protective gear looking after these patients. All items used on the floor are isolated to that floor. The isolated floor will completely contain the disease even with these asymptomatic persons. All other hospital operations are operating as normal, and there is no increased risk to patients, visitors or staff, it added.

Private hospitals have also been taking precautions amidst the scare. “As 29 cases of corona virus have come to light, it’s high time that we should stay alert against this threat. We have stepped up our screening and quarantine measures for all the domestic and international patients in our hospital. In order to have a prompt response, we have stockpiled the needed equipment to control the disease. For our medical staff, who will be the closest contact with patients, we have incorporated N95 respirator mask in the hospitals because these mask provides much better protection. We are once again monitoring all patients about their recent travel history," said H S Chhabra, Medical Director Cum Chief Of Spine Services, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC).

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