Five new cases of coronavirus in Kerala, infections in India rise to 39


New Delhi: Students wear masks amid coronavirus fears, as they wait outside Kerala School ahead for their Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class 12 exams, in New Delhi, Friday, March 6, 2020. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Students wear masks amid coronavirus fears, as they wait outside Kerala School ahead for their Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class 12 exams, in New Delhi, Friday, March 6, 2020. (PTI Photo)

The number of coronavirus cases rose to 39 in India on Sunday as five more people tested positive in Kerala, including a couple and their son who had flown from Italy and evaded airport screening, prompting state authorities to warn of action against those hiding travel history, while other states too introduced stricter measures to check the spread of the disease.

As the Centre denied entry to cruise ships till March 31 in the wake of the coronavirus scare, a cruise ship with a Panama flag ‘MSC Lirica’ was turned back at the New Mangalore Port on Saturday.

After Sikkim, the Arunachal Pradesh government has also decided to temporarily suspend issuing Protected Area Permits (PAPs) to foreigners to check the spread of coronavirus.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said his government will request the Centre to impose a ban on travelling to countries that have recorded a large number of coronavirus cases.

In Assam at least 400 people have been quarantined after they came in contact with an American tourist who tested positive for the new coronavirus in Bhutan after travelling through the state recently, state Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja said the state has been put on high alert in the wake of the five new cases, reported more than a fortnight after India’s first three coronavirus patients -medical students from Wuhan- were discharged from hospitals in the state.

The minister said the couple in their fifties and their 24-year old son had taken a flight from Italy to India on February 29 and evaded health screening at the airport. The two others affected are their relatives, Shailaja said.

The new cases are from Ranni in Pathnamthitta district, where all public programmes and religious gatherings have been called off.

The minister said all the passengers who travelled with the infected family in the Venice-Doha Qatar airlines QR 126 flight on February 29 and Qatar Airlines flight QR514 from Doha to Kochi that arrived at 8.20 am on March 1 should get in touch with health authorities.

The airlines, in a statement, said it was working with Indian health authorities in this regard.

An operation has been launched for tracing all passengers on the flight and their secondary contacts and the employees who attended to them on February 29, a Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) statement said

The state health department said failure to inform authorities about travel history and symptoms would be considered a crime, while the state police separately said it was “illegal and punishable” if anyone hid such information.

“Strict action, including prosecution, will be initiated against them. Directives of various government agencies should be followed in this regard,” a police release said

The Kerala government, however, has decided to go ahead with “Attukal Pongala,” one of the largest all-women religious congregations to be held on Monday, while issuing fresh guidelines including asking those coming from abroad especially from the affected countries to make the offering in their hotels itself.

“As of now their condition is stable. But there is need to take extra care”, the minister said. Two nonagenarian members of the family will be shifted to the Kottayam Medical College hospital as a precaution, she added.

The three, who had returned from Venice, at first refused to cooperate with health officials, following which they were forcibly admitted to the isolation ward of the Pathnamathitta general hospital.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India, which was just six till last Tuesday, now stands at 39 including 16 Italians. The figure also includes the three Kerala patients who were discharged last month following recovery.

In Tamil Nadu, a 15-year old boy who arrived in Chennai from the US via Doha with his father was sent to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai as he showed some symptoms associated with fever during screening at the airport, officials said.

Twenty-seven people, who came into contact with a 45-year-old coronavirus patient in the state, have been placed under home surveillance, state Health Secretary Beela Rajesh said.

A diabetic man died in the isolation ward of a hospital in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district on Sunday, a day after he was admitted there with suspected symptoms of coronavirus following his return from Saudi Arabia.

According to doctors, he was admitted to the hospital with fever, cough and cold.

Though test results of his blood and swab samples for novel coronavirus were awaited, it can be said that Janarul Haque died probably of diabetes, Director of Health Services Ajay Chakraborty told PTI.

The samples of 258 people admitted in hospitals for suspected exposure to novel coronavirus in Maharashtra have returned negative and they have been discharged, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Sunday.

He said 15 people are still under observation in Mumbai and Pune.

Maharashtra has not reported any positive case of coronavirus so far.

In Rajasthan, the condition of a coronavirus-hit Italian couple admitted at SMS Hospital for treatment is improving, a senior official said in Jaipur.

The Italian man was tested positive for coronavirus on March 2, while his wife too was tested positive a day later.

Isolation facilities are being augmented in several hospitals across the country.

The Union Health Ministry has asked the AIIMS administration in Delhi to designate a part of the new emergency wing for setting up of isolation beds for suspected COVID-19 patients.

Six other AIIMS have been directed to keep an isolation bed capacity between 12-15 for coronavirus patients, which can be scaled up to 30 if need arises, an official said.

Besides, the ministry has asked the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Jhajjar and Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry to keep such beds.

The Delhi government has ordered DTC and cluster buses, metro and hospitals to be disinfected on a regular basis as a precautionary measure to deal with the novel coronavirus, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday.

Addressing a press conference, Kejriwal said 168 isolation beds had been set up at 25 hospitals for coronavirus patients.

He appealed to the people in Delhi to inform the government if any person in their neighbourhood had returned from abroad in the last 14 days.

The chief minister, who chaired a state task force on Sunday, said the government was fully prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus, adding that people do not need to panic.

He also said he will meet Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday to request a ban on travel to countries where a significant number of COVID-19 cases have been reported.

The Union Health ministry has made 52 laboratories functional for testing samples while 57 labs have been designated for helping in sample collection to enhance the capacity for diagnosis and detection of the virus.

As of March 6, a total of 4,058 samples from 3,404 individuals have been tested by the network, officials said.

The number of novel coronavirus cases stood at over 105,800 including 3,595 deaths, across 95 countries and territories. China, where the epidemic emerged in December, had 80,695 cases, of which 3,097 were fatal.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said efforts are underway for the return of Indian pilgrims from Iran’s Qom city and follow up arrangements are being discussed with the Iranian authorities.

Jaishankar also said no case of coronavirus has been reported among the Indian fishermen in Iran.

Responding to tweets by NCP chief Sharad Pawar and other leaders on the issue, the External Affairs Minister tweeted : “Efforts underway for return of Indian pilgrims in Qom #Iran.

“Screening process has started and follow up arrangements are being discussed with Iranian authorities. This is top priority and Embassy team @india_in_iran is fully engaged on this.”

The cabinet secretary held a review meeting where it was decided that in view of rising cases in France, the US, Spain, dedicated aerobridges for flights from these countries should be put in place at airports.

Dedicated aerobridges are in place for flights from China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Nepal and Indonesia.

During the review meeting, it was also stressed that people need to be made aware about the use of masks.

The ministry said that if a person is healthy, they only need to wear a mask if they are taking care of a person with suspected infection. People should also wear masks if they are coughing or sneezing, it said.