Coronavirus cases rise to 30, India-EU summit being rescheduled


New Delhi: Passengers wear masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus while travelling in a metro, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 5, 2020. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Passengers wear masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus while travelling in a metro, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 5, 2020. (PTI Photo)

A man from Ghaziabad with a recent travel history to Iran has tested positive for novel coronavirus, taking the total number of such cases in the country to 30 as the government on Thursday asked states to form rapid response teams at district, block and village levels.

In some relief for Telangana, blood samples of two persons from the state which were sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune for confirmation tested negative.

Telangana Health Minister E Rajender said the samples were of a man who came from Italy and a sanitary worker at an IT company.

He said a software professional from the state working in Bengaluru who tested positive is suspected to have contracted it in Dubai and his condition is improving. The man is currently undergoing treatment at the state-run Gandhi hospital in Hyderabad.

Till Wednesday, 29 people, including 16 Italian tourists, tested positive for coronavirus. The list includes the first three cases in the country from Kerala last month. The three persons have been discharged following recovery.

Officials on Thursday said one more case of novel coronavirus was reported in Ghaziabad and the middle-aged man who recently travelled to Iran.

Meanwhile, five people who came in contact with the Paytm employee who works in Gurgaon and lives in west Delhi have been tested and quarantined till their results come in, Delhi government health officials said.

The Paytm employee, who tested positive for the contagious disease on Wednesday, came in touch with 91 people in Gurgaon, an official said, citing his counterpart in the suburban town.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced that all primary schools in the national capital will remain closed till March 31 to prevent the possibility of spread of coronavirus.

Primary classes of Kendriya Vidyalayas in the national capital will also remain closed till March 31.

The outbreak also cast a shadow on the India-EU summit which was slated to be held later this month and will now be rescheduled.

According to MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, India and EU decided to reschedule Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Brussels in view of the advice by health authorities.

He also said no case of any Indian being affected by coronavirus in Iran has emerged and Indian embassies across the world are on the job to help Indians.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said an Indian medical team is in Iran and authorities here are working on the logistics with their Iranian counterparts for the return of the Indians stranded there.

He said the Indian medical team was likely to set up its first clinic at Qom to start screening for coronavirus.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan sought to allay fears saying the government is taking all steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the scale of interventions has been increased in alignment with the evolving situation in India where 28,529 people have been brought under community surveillance and monitoring.

Making a suo motu statement first in Rajya Sabha and then in Lok Sabha on steps taken to contain the virus, he said as on March 4, 29 positive cases have been reported in the country.

The health ministry said in addition to COVID 19 cases related to travel, some cases of community transmission have also been observed and so 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.

It also said that India has imposed additional visa restrictions on people travelling from or having visited Italy and South Korea, making it mandatory for them to submit a certificate of having tested negative for COVID-19 from laboratories authorised by the health authorities of their countries.

This will come into effect from 0000 hrs of March 10 and is a temporary measure till cases of novel coronavirus subside, the ministry said in a travel advisory.

The government has already suspended all regular visas/e-visas granted on or before March 3 to nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan who have not yet entered India in view of the emerging global scenarios regarding COVID19 disease.

According to the advisory, the government has also suspended visa on arrival (VoA) issued on or before March 3 to Japanese and South Korean nationals who have not yet entered India.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla reviewed the status of screening procedure of people coming from neighbouring countries through land borders and urged officials to ensure round-the-clock deployment of doctors at the entry points.

He also held a video conference with the chief secretaries, DGPs and other senior officials of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Punjab, besides the directors general of the BSF and the SSB, to take stock of the situation and steps being taken to check every person entering the country through these posts.

Amid reports of coronavirus outbreak in China affecting the Indian pharma industry, Union Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Sadanand Gowda said there is no shortage of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients for at least three months.

Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients are raw materials required to produce medicines and are also referred to as bulk drugs.

Meanwhile, 14 Italians, who are among those who have tested positive, have been shifted to the Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon from an ITBP quarantine centre.

In a statement, the hospital said 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 and all items used on the floor are isolated to that floor.

Twenty-one Italian tourists and their three Indian tour operators were shifted from the ITBP quarantine centre here on Wednesday as they were exposed to coronavirus.

An affected Italian couple is being treated at Jaipur’s SMS medical college.

Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh said 175 people have been tested so far for coronavirus in the state with 157 of them showing no sign of the infection.

Of the remaining 18 tested, six are from Agra and one from Ghaziabad, he said, referring to the seven cases which have tested positive.

The reports of the remaining 11 are yet to be received from NIV, Singh said.

Nine Italian tourists and their Indian guide, who was quarantined at a facility near Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh for suspected exposure to the coronavirus, were allowed to go to New Delhi after their samples were taken for examination.

The tourists requested that they wanted to return to their country “at their own risk”, an official said.

The Italian tourists and their Indian guide arrived at Khajuraho, the world-famous heritage site located about 44 km from Chhatarpur, on Tuesday evening by road. Before that, they travelled by a train from Agra into Jhansi.

Seven persons from three families have been isolated at home at Seoni in Madhya Pradesh for suspected exposure to coronavirus following their return from Italy last month.

Though none of them exhibited symptoms of the infection, the step was taken as a precaution as Italy is the worst-affected country in Europe from coronavirus, an official said.

The Sikkim government has decided to suspend issuing Inner Line Permit (ILP) to foreign nationals following coronavirus scare as a precautionary measure.

Foreign nationals are required to obtain ILP from the state government to visit Sikkim, while a domestic tourist must get a permit from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department to visit Nathula, a mountain pass in East Sikkim district which links the state with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.