New Delhi [India], Feb 10 (ANI): As a part of measures to prevent cases of coronavirus, over 1.97 lakh passengers from 1,818 flights have been screened so far, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan informed the Lok Sabha on Monday.
Making a suo moto statement, he noted that public health implications of the reports that the virus has been found in the faecal samples of infected patients were being worked out. Dr Vardhan said that 37,198 confirmed cases and 811 deaths have been reported in China till February 9. “A total of 354 confirmed cases have been reported outside China from 27 countries including Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. The number of cases and deaths reported from China is showing an upward trend,” he said.
The minister said the screening of passengers was being done since January 18. It was initially done at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Kochi airports and later expanded to 21 airports. “Universal thermal screening has been made mandatory for all flights from Singapore and Thailand besides Hong Kong and China. These flights will park at earmarked aero-bridges to facilitate screening,” he said.
The minister said that signage has been displayed at prominent places in airports and ports. As of today, a total of 1,818 flights have been screened covering a total of 1,97,192 passengers. Teams of specialist doctors were sent to all the airports to ensure effective screening and arrangement for isolation in the attached hospitals,” he said.
The minister said the Central government has also provided support to other countries in tackling the challenge posed by the Novel Coronavirus (nCOV) disease and ICMR has offered to do testing of samples for other South-East Asian Region countries.
Testing of samples from the Maldives has already been undertaken and request from Afghanistan for samples testing has been agreed. We have agreed to provide technical assistance to Bhutan in managing this infectious disease and screening of passengers also,” he said. The minister said three positive cases have been reported so far from Kerala and all of them have travel history from Wuhan, China. “They have been isolated and are reported to be clinically stable,” he said.
He said the screening of passengers was also being done at 12 major seaports and all minor ports in the country to identify passengers crew coming from China and to isolate them in case they are found symptomatic.
“Regular surveillance has been initiated across the country for all cases having travel history from China and for people having contact with such persons and having fever, cough or breathlessness. Presently, we are following 9452 passengers across 29 states and union territories,” he said.
The minister said sufficient isolation beds have been made available in the tertiary facilities across the country and 369 symptomatic travellers have been referred to isolation facility and were being monitored. Harsh Vardhan said the National Institute of Virology, Pune, has established capacity for molecular diagnosis of nCoV.
“Next-generation sequencing is also established. The testing of clinical samples has also been initiated in 11 more laboratories. As of now 1510 samples have been tested and 1507 samples were found negative, 3 samples have tested positive and 27 samples are under process,” he said.
The minister said many epidemiological parameters such as incubation period, mode of transmission, subclinical infection, the period of virus shedding were still being researched.
He said once a person is exposed to the infection, it may take about two weeks to develop the illness and the main symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease are fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing.
“There will be radiological evidence indicative of pneumonia. In 10 per cent to 20 per cent of cases, the disease may become severe enough to require ventilatory support. The case fatality is around two per cent,” he said.
Referring to human-to-human transmission, he said it spreads through droplets in persons having close contact.
“Public health implications of the reports that the virus has been found in faecal samples of infected patients are being worked out. All suspected or probable cases of nCoV must be treated in isolation with barrier nursing and universal precautions to prevent the further spread of disease,” he said.
The minister said that China reported an outbreak of Novel Coronavirus on December 31 last year.
He said the outbreak was initially noticed in a seafood market in Wuhan city in Hubei Province of China in early December 2019 and in a short span has spread to all the provinces of China. The World Health Organisation has declared this outbreak as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC) on January 30.
The minister said the government has made concerted effort to prevent the disease from entering the country and to contain its spread. Existing visas (including eVisa already issued) are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China.
People having compelling reasons to visit India have been asked to contact the India embassy in Beijing or consulate in Shanghai or Guangzhou.
He said people have been advised to refrain from travelling to China and those going now will be quarantined on return.
The minister also referred to efforts to evacuate the Indian students and other professionals working in Wuhan and neighbouring cities in the Hubei Province.