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India reviews preparedness to deal with Novel Coronavirus

With the world facing a new threat with the outbreak of novel Coronavirus in China, India is constantly reviewing the evolving scenario, developments, and preparedness to deal with the situation.

As many as four persons have died in China and over 200 affected with the new diseases. Cases have also been reported from South Korea and Thailand. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will convene an emergency meeting on the novel Coronavirus (nCoV) under the International Health Regulations to ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage it. The committee will meet on Wednesday.

Highly contagious Coronavirus is believed to be transferred from animals to human beings followed by human to human transfer. Its symptoms range from simple cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and even lesions in the lungs.  

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has written to Ministry of Civil Aviation to facilitate thermal screening at the International airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin for the airlines to follow International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on flights originating from China and disembarking in India.

The Health Ministry has also written to Ministry of External Affairs to provide details of travellers from Wuhan city who have sought visa to travel to India, since 31st December, 2019 and to counsel the applicants while issuing visa. They have also been requested to provide daily details. As for E-visa issue Ministry of Home Affairs is being approached.

Ministry of External Affairs has also been requested to disseminate travel advisory (in local languages) to Indian Embassies in China and adjoining countries for wider circulation and passenger information.

The Union Health Secretary has also written to the States/UTs to review their preparedness, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities in the area of surveillance, laboratory support infection prevention and control, logistics, risk communication and in particular, hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of critically ill patients of severe acute respiratory illness (SARI).

The Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) under the Chairmanship of DGHS has met twice (on 8th and 15th January, 2020) to assess the risk and review the preparedness and response mechanisms to manage any case that might get imported to India. WHO, being represented in the JMG is providing Ministry with regular updates and technical information.

A travel advisory has been issued and put up on Ministry’s website and also on the Twitter handle for wider circulation.

Port and Airport Health Organizations have been sensitized and thermal screening has been initiated at the international airports of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and will be initiated today at Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin airports. The Airport Health Organizations at the airports of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata have put up signages at prominent locations informing the public about self-reporting of illness. The hospitals attached to these airports have been reviewed for provision of isolation and critical care facilities. Immigration officers manning the counters have been sensitized at these airports.

Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme has issued advisory to all States/UTs for SARI surveillance to pick up any travel-related case reported in the community and follow up contacts of suspect/confirmed cases, a statement issued by the Health Ministry said.

National Institute of Virology, Pune is fully geared up to test samples of nCoV. Ten other laboratories under the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Viral Research and Diagnostics Laboratories network are also equipped to test such samples if a need arises.

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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