Stepping up its preparation to fight the threat of a potential novel coronavirus
(nCoV) outbreak, the Indian government on Tuesday said that screening of passengers would be expanded to 20 airports along with adding new laboratories to test the virus. So far 35,000 passengers have been screened in India. Vardhan held a review meeting on Tuesday to take stock of the situation. He said that in the next one or two days, passenger screening would be expanded to 20 airports, from the current seven. At present, thermal screening of passengers coming from China is being done at the seven big airports — Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Kochi.
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Vardhan said the government plans to test the virus at 10 laboratories across the country. At present, only the National
Institute of Virology in Pune is conducting the tests; so far, 20 samples have been sent to the Pune lab.
On Tuesday, the government activated four new laboratories — the Indian Council of Medical Research’s viral research and diagnostics lab network — at Alleppey, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Mumbai for testing samples. Three suspected patients are under observation at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
Meanwhile, ports, too, have stepped up vigil. Yashodhan Wanage, deputy chairman, Mumbai Port Trust, said that they have been asked (by the government) not to give shore permit to vessels coming from China.
Gujarat’s Health Commissioner Jai Prakash Shivahare said wards at all medical colleges in the state have been isolated, even as rapid response teams are being deployed at key entry points, including airports. He added that not only are response teams being deployed (according to guidelines from the Centre), but Gujarat has started providing training via videoconference to district teams and medical colleges.
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Kerala government on Monday said 288 people are under observation, of which seven have shown symptoms. However, test results were negative for five; results for the rest are awaited, said State Health Minister K K Shailaja.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed the government machineries to take up the issue in a comprehensive manner, resulting in the first big meeting last Saturday. At that meeting, chaired by P K Mishra, principal secretary to the PM, top bureaucrats from across the ministries, including health, civil aviation, home affairs, and external affairs, briefed Mishra on the preparedness and response measures taken so far.
Two days later, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba took a follow-up review meeting. Plans to evacuate Indians in Wuhan — the centre of the virus outbreak in China, which has been under lockdown — were also discussed. A decision was taken that the MEA would make a request to the Chinese authorities for possible evacuation. Significantly, in the meeting chaired by Gauba on Monday, top representatives of the National
Disaster Management Authority and Directorate General (Armed Forces Medical Service), too, were present, besides officials from the health, civil aviation, MEA, and defence, among others.
In response to the confirmed case of the nCoV in Nepal, India has stepped up vigil at the border with Nepal.
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