NEW DELHI :
The health ministry has screened over 9,150 passengers of 43 flights for the Coronavirus disease at seven airports. After the outbreak of the virus in China, India has stepped up its preparedness to prevent entry of the virus in the country.
“Till now, no case has been detected through these screening efforts. We are on alert ... Passengers travelling from China are being requested to report to the nearest public health facility in case they feel any symptoms," said Preeti Sudan, secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The health and civil aviation ministries have issued travel advisory and shared it on their Twitter handle for wider circulation.
The health ministry has instructed airport health organisations at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin to screen passengers coming from mainland China at these seven international airports.
“Signages have been put up at prominent locations in these airports for encouraging public about self-reporting of illness. Immigration officers manning the counters have been sensitized at these airports. Close coordination is being maintained with Ministry of Civil Aviation to coordinate the screening effort and dissemination of information to inbound passengers through in-flight announcements," a health ministry statement said. “The Health Ministry is constantly reviewing the evolving scenario working closely with Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of External Affairs, department of Health Research and the Indian Embassy in China."
The ministry has consulted the World Health Organisation (WHO) for updates on technical inputs. “Series of meetings have been held to review the evolving scenario, preparedness in terms of disease surveillance, laboratory support infection prevention and control, logistics, risk communication and, in particular, hospital preparedness and need for coordination and collaboration with other Ministries," said a senior health ministry official.
The health ministry has also written to all states and union territories to review their preparedness, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities needed to prepare for, detect and respond to possible outbreaks.
National Institute of Virology, Pune, and 10 laboratories under Indian Council of Medical Research’s Viral Research and Diagnostics Laboratories network have geared up to test samples of the virus. Medical stores have maintained adequate stock of equipment for personal protection, the health ministry said.
The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 17 in Wuhan, China, with several cases reported across the country. US has also reported a case of the virus, raising concerns across the world.
The World Health Organization convened an emergency meeting in Geneva on Wednesday for deciding whether the fast spreading outbreak is a “public health emergency of international concern", and what recommendations should be made to tackle it.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. The outbreak is that of a new, unknown form of pneumonia, which has so far infected at least 453 patients across central China, spreading from the city of Wuhan, where the first case was identified on 31 December. As per latest reports, the deadly virus has also travelled to South Korea and a case was reported in Thailand, and Japan each.