A day after the first Ebola case was reported in India, government on Wednesday decided to tighten measures to prevent its outbreak as it set up a three- member committee to plug gaps at airports while stating that the situation is under “complete control” and there is no need for panic.
Health Minister J P Nadda said that arrangements similar to the one at Delhi airport, which helped detect the virus in a 26-year-old Indian national returning from Liberia, have been put in place at 24 airports.
Nadda said his ministry will constitute teams of experts who will visit states and review preparedness of their hospitals designated for treating Ebola patients.
Chairing an inter-ministerial meeting on Tuesday in Delhi to review the situation, Nadda asked officials to ensure that quarantine facilities set up at airports adhere to all guidelines and protocols.
“A three member team will be constituted to inspect all airports to identify the gaps. It will include officials from the Health, Civil Aviation and Immigration departments,” an official statement said on Wednesday , adding that the committee will submit its report within a week.
In Jammu, Nadda told , “There is no need to panic. The situation is under complete control”.
The detection of the virus in the man, who arrived here on November 10 from Liberia, was a result of “extra caution” shown by the government, he said.
Nadda said the passenger is not showing any symptoms of illness. He has been kept under observation in line with international standards. Till the time all tests are negative, he will be kept under observation, he said.
The man was treated for Ebola in Liberia and carried a certificate from authorities there that he was cured of it.
The minister said, “All arrivals from outside the country are being checked. The tour and medical history of passengers are being checked at airports”.
“Measures have been put in place 24 airports with isolation centres setup. The Joint efforts are being made by union Ministries of health and civil aviation. Assistance of Army doctors are also being sought”, he said.
Officials from several ministries concerned besides those from AIIMS and other central hospitals, WHO and National Disaster Management Authority attended the meeting.
Pushing for expediting the ministry’s action plan on the need to have India compliant on the core capacities required under international health regulations, he said there was a need to strengthen 10 laboratories by the end of the month.
India has screened thousands of passengers travelling from Ebola-hit West Africa in recent weeks. There are nearly 45,000 Indian nationals living in West Africa.
Ebola has taken the lives of at least 5,177 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to the latest WHO figures.
Along with airports, surveillance at seaports also needs to be strengthened, Nadda said as he sought a detailed report on the working of surveillance facility at ports, the health ministry statement said.
The minister said large medical force available with Defence Ministry could be utilised and proposed that capacity building for Ebola case management should be initiated for defence doctors and nurses to equip them better for emergency response management.