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Coronavirus: Health ministry seeks information on Indian visa applicants

According to Chinese authorities, coronavirus has infected more than 220 people and resulted in the death of three people in the country.

SNS | New Delhi |

In the wake of the outbreak of deadly coronavirus in China, the health ministry has sought from the Ministry of External Affairs details of those who have applied for Indian visa since December 31 so that they can be counselled. The MEA has also been requested to disseminate travel advisory to Indian Embassies in China and adjoining countries in local languages for wider circulation and passenger information, the health ministry said in a statement.

The Union health secretary has also written to states and Union Territories to review their preparedness, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities in the area of surveillance, laboratory support and in particular, hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of patients with severe respiratory illness.

Special secretary, health, on Monday reviewed the public health measures that need to be scaled in the context of spurt in cases reported by China. According to Chinese authorities, coronavirus has infected more than 220 people and resulted in the death of three people in the country. World Health Organisation (WHO), in its risk assessment, said that the risk for a global spread of the infection remains low.

Various measures have been initiated by the Ministry of Health as a matter of abundant precaution and the secretary, health is constantly reviewing the developments, preparedness and response measures being undertaken by the ministry, an official statement said.

The health ministry has written to the civil aviation ministry for thermal screening of passengers at the international airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin and the airlines to follow International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on flights originating from China.

The Airport Health Organizations at the Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata have put up signs at prominent locations informing the public about self-reporting of illness. Hospitals attached to these airports have been reviewed for provision of isolation and critical care facilities, the statement said.

“The ministry of health has also written to Ministry of External Affairs to provide details of travelers from Wuhan city who have sought visa to travel to India, since December 31 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,” the statement stated.

The Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) under the Chairmanship of Director General of Health Services (DGHS) has met twice — on January 8 and 15 — to assess the risk and review the preparedness and response mechanisms to manage any case that might get into India.

WHO, being represented in the JMG, is providing the ministry with regular updates and technical information. A travel advisory has been put up on the ministry’s website and also on the Twitter handle.

According to the statement, the National Institute of Virology, Pune, is fully geared up to test samples of novel coronavirus (nCoV).

Ten other laboratories under the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Viral Research and Diagnostics Laboratories network are also equipped to test samples, if such a need arises.