Two private schools in Noida were shut on Tuesday for next few days and several people, including family members of the Delhi man who tested positive for the virus, quarantined or kept in isolation as authorities stepped up prevention efforts including extending suspension of existing regular and e-visas to nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan who have not yet entered India.
On February 4, India had cancelled the existing visas for Chinese nationals and foreigners who had visited the neighbouring country in the preceding two-week period, following the outbreak of Coronavirus which has now spread to over 60 countries and claimed over 3,100 lives. Over 90,000 have been infected.
Officials said the sample of an Italian tourist in Jaipur which was sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune was found to be positive after the first two tests gave contradictory results. The 69-year-old man, part of a group of 20 tourists, is admitted at an isolation ward of the SMS Hospital.
With this, six cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the country so far.
As concerns over the spread of the virus mounted after two more persons tested positive on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an extensive review on the preparedness. He urged the people not to panic and instead take basic protective measures.
The Civil Aviation Ministry too conducted a meeting with all airports to review and update guidelines.
Sources said the patient from Mayur Vihar in Delhi, who had travelled to Italy recently, was shifted to a quarantine ward at Safdarjung Hospital on Sunday night.
One of the schools in Noida, on outskirts of Delhi, where the Delhi man’s son is a primary class student, said it will remain shut from March 4 to March 6, while the other said it will be closed till Saturday. The board exams are not affected, the messages sent by the schools to the parents made clear.
In came to light that the man had thrown a birthday party last week for the child, triggering fears that those who attended it including some students and his relatives might be at risk.
Samples from five students from the school have been taken to check if anyone has been infected, Noida’s Chief Medical Officer Anurag Bhargava said.
Fumigation was underway in both the schools and a Health Department team led by Noida’s chief medical officer visited the site, an official said.
While some family members of the man, an accountant and others who came in contact with him were asked to remain quarantined at their homes in Delhi and Agra, six others from Agra with “high-viral load” have been kept in isolation at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi and their samples sent to NIV, Pune, officials said.
Contact tracing of the people who came in contact with the six is simultaneously being done through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP) network, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Hotels and the authorities at tourist sites in Agra have been told to inform the office of the chief medical officer as soon as visitors from Italy, Iran or China arrive so that they can be screened for coronavirus infection, Agra Chief Medical Officer Dr Mukesh Vats told PTI.
The other patient who tested positive for the COVID-19 infection, a 24-year-old techie, is admitted in Hyderabad and had recently travelled to Dubai and Bengaluru.
Karnataka Health Minister B Sriramulu said that a medical team is monitoring the health condition of all those people who had come in contact with the software engineer.
India had earlier reported three cases from Kerala, including two medical students from Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the deadly novel coronavirus. All three have recovered.
“It has come to our knowledge that the coronavirus-hit person in Hyderabad had gone from Bengaluru. Therefore, all the members in the house where he had stayed have been identified and are under watch,” Sriramulu tweeted on late Monday night.
The software engineer had worked with people from Hong Kong in Dubai last month where he is suspected to have contracted the virus, Telangana health minister E Rajender told reporters in Hyderabad.
The man reached Bengaluru on February 19-20 and later went to Hyderabad in a bus. He took treatment for fever after coming to Hyderabad and was admitted to a private super speciality hospital in the city. As it did not subside, he came to the state-run Gandhi hospital on Sunday evening, Rajender said.
The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said 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, stand suspended in view of the emerging global scenarios regarding COVID19 disease.
Visa on arrival (VoA) issued on or before March 3 to Japanese and South Korean nationals, who have not yet entered India, have also been suspended.
It also said diplomats, officials of UN and other international bodies, OCI cardholders and aircrew from above countries are exempted from such restriction on entry. However, their medical screening is compulsory.
“Passengers of all international flights entering into India from any port are required to furnish duly filled self-declaration form (including personal particulars i.e. phone no. and address in India) and travel history, to health officials and immigration officials at all ports.
“Passengers (foreign and Indian) other than those restricted, arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan must undergo medical screening at the port of entry,” it said.
The ministry said that all previous advisories stand superseded in view of the fresh instructions.
It asked all Indian citizens to refrain from travel to China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and asked them to avoid non-essential travel to other COVID-19 affected countries.
The government has asked people to avoid non-essential travel to Iran, Italy, South Korea and Singapore and said India was in discussions with authorities in Iran and Italy, two countries badly affected by the infection, to evacuate Indians there.
“Had an extensive review regarding preparedness on the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Different ministries and states are working together, from screening people arriving in India to providing prompt medical attention,” the prime minister said in a tweet.
“There is no need to panic. We need to work together, take small yet important measures to ensure self-protection,” he said while sharing a health ministry post.
Meanwhile, in Lucknow, samples of an Uttar Pradesh resident who had returned from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday morning have been sent for testing. He will be quarantined for 14 days in the hospital, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr Narendra Agarwal.