The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday asked Indians to refrain from travelling to China where the novel coronavirus has claimed over 100 lives.
The Ministry issued a fresh travel advisory and also urged people travelling to China to monitor their health closely.
It asked people to use 24×7 helpline (011-23978046) for queries related to respiratory infection.
“In the view of the spurt of cases being reported in China and travel-related cases appearing in many countries…all non-essential travel to China to be avoided,” it said.
As part of the preparedness, India has also increased the number of airports from seven to 21 where thermal screening of passengers is being done for possible exposure to the deadly nCoV.
These include airports at Gaya, Guwahati, Visakhapatnam, Varanasi, Goa, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow besides the seven designated airports identified earlier.
The health ministry also has established four more laboratories apart from the NIV-Pune for testing samples.
The four labs for the testing samples have been made functional at Alleppey, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai.
India is also planning to evacuate its nationals, mostly students, stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of the viral outbreak.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba had on Tuesday reviewed the preparedness to deal with the deadly virus after which the government said India has made a formal request to China for facilitating the evacuation of Indians from Wuhan.
The Civil Aviation Ministry will make necessary arrangements for evacuation after the approval of Chinese authorities is received.
Asserting that there was no confirmed case of the nCoV, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had on Tuesday said India was making all efforts to detect and check the spread of the virus even as more than a dozen countries around the world have confirmed cases.
Several states, including Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan have kept some people, with travel history to China, under observation after they showed novel coronavirus-like symptoms.
Apart from increasing the number of airports to conduct thermal screening of passengers, the Centre has stepped up vigil in areas bordering Nepal in view of a confirmed case of nCoV detected there.
The Health Minister had said he has also written to all chief ministers, requesting them for personal intervention to review the states’ preparedness for control and management of the spread of the virus.
China had reported 24 more deaths on Tuesday from the coronavirus epidemic, taking the number of fatalities to 106 as the confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the outbreak stood at 4,515, the Chinese health authorities said.
The Health Minister has urged passengers who have a travel history to China since January 1, 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.
Three persons with a travel history to China have been kept under observation at an isolation ward of RML Hospital in New Delhi for possible exposure to novel coronavirus.
A 24×7 NCDC Call Centre has been made operational to monitor the list of contacts furnished by the Ministry of External Affairs, 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 Health Ministry has asked passengers to follow certain dos and don’ts if they are in China or if they are travelling or returning from China.
The advisory stated that during their stay in China, if they feel sick and have fever and cough, then they should cover their mouth while coughing and sneezing, seek medical attention promptly and report to the Indian Embassy in China.
It said if they feel sick on flight, while travelling back to India from China, they should inform the airline crew about their illness, seek mask and self-reporting format from the airline crew, avoid close contact with family members or fellow travellers and follow other directions of crew and airport health officer.