New Delhi, Feb 10 Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan on Monday gave a detailed account in Parliament of the action taken by his ministry to stop and contain the novel coronavirus infection in India.
The minister informed the Lower House that a total of 1,818 flights had been screened covering at least 197,192 passengers since January 18 till date.
“Teams of specialist doctors were sent to all the airports to ensure effective screening and arrangement for isolation in the attached hospitals,” he said.
He said a Group of Ministers consisting of the Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Civil Aviation, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Minister of State for Shipping and Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare has been constituted to monitor the situation.
He said that the Cabinet Secretary had been taking review meetings on a daily basis with all the officials of the concerned ministries including the state chief secretaries.
“Screening of passengers was initiated on January 18. Initially airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi were covered and subsequently expanded to a total of 21 airports,” said the minister in the Lok Sabha.
“Universal thermal screening has been made mandatory for all flights from Singapore and Thailand besides Hong Kong and China and these flights will park at earmarked aero-bridges to facilitate screening. Signages have been displayed at prominent places in the airports and the ports. In-flight announcements are being made and self-declaration forms are being filled up by all passengers,” the minister said.
“Screening of passengers has also been initiated in 12 major seaports and all minor ports in the country to identify passengers & crew coming from China and to isolate them in case they are found symptomatic,” he added.
In the backdrop of the outbreak of novel coronavirus in China and a confirmed case in Nepal, the Indian Government initiated screening in all integrated check posts from Nepal in collaboration with the states of UP, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim and Bihar and the Seema Sashastra Bal (SSB) and Land Port Authorities. Gram Sabhas have been conducted in villages adjoining the borders with Nepal to create awareness amongst the people about the disease and precautions to be taken in collaboration with the Panchayati Raj Ministry.
China reported an outbreak of novel coronavirus on December 31. The outbreak was initially noticed in a seafood market in Wuhan city in Hubei Province of China in early December and in a short span has spread to all the provinces of China.
A total of 37,198 confirmed cases and 811 deaths have been reported in China as on February 9 and 354 confirmed cases have been reported outside China from 27 countries including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The World Health Organization declared this outbreak as a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ (PHEIC) on January 30.
Given the fact that the number of cases and deaths reported from China has been showing an upward trend, the Indian government also took several other measures to control the novel coronavirus infection spreading in India.
A First Advisory of the Health Ministry was issued on January 17 and as the situation is evolving, the travel advisories are accordingly getting revised. Existing visas (including eVisa already issued) are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China at present. Those having compelling reasons to visit India have been asked to contact the Indian embassy in Beijing or the consulates in Shanghai or Guangzhou.
People have already been advised to refrain from travelling to China through an earlier advisory. People travelling to China are being quarantined on return.
At least 654 people were evacuated from Wuhan by the Indian government on January 30 and February 1.
After evacuation, they are presently under quarantine at special facilities created by the Indian Army in Manesar and by the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in Chhawla Camp.
“10 of the evacuees who were symptomatic have been shifted to isolation. All of them have tested negative for this disease and are stable. All other evacuees are being medically examined on a daily basis and are healthy,” said the Minister.
Through the Integrated Disease Surveillance network all persons having a travel history from China and people having contact with such persons and showing symptoms, are being tracked. At least 9,452 people across 29 States and Union Territories are being followed up.
The state surveillance officers, district surveillance officers and rapid response teams of health professionals under the leadership of state Health Secretaries are monitoring all such people on a daily basis.
“Sufficient isolation beds have been made available in the tertiary facilities across the country to manage any outbreak. 369 symptomatic travellers have been referred to isolation facility and are being monitored,” the Union Health Minister informed the Members of the House.
He also said “Government of India is in regular touch with WHO headquarters, regional office and country office to get updates on evolving scenario.”