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India initiated action ‘before WHO advice’: Harsh Vardhan on Coronavirus in Parliament

Harsh Vardhan said regular review meetings with various Ministry officials and secretaries are taking place and added that his own Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are directly monitoring the situation.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Government on Thursday informed the Parliament that 29 people have tested positive for Coronavirus or COVID-19 in India and 28,529 people brought under surveillance so far.

Addressing the Rajya Sabha on Coronavirus, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan talked about the various measures the country has taken in order to deal with the deadly disease.

He said regular review meetings with various Ministry officials and secretaries are taking place and added that his own Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are directly monitoring the situation.

The Union minister said India has initiated required preparedness and action since January 17, much before the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

He further informed that universal screening for all international passengers will now be conducted.

“Directions have been issued for universal screening of all international passengers. Signboards have been placed and in-flight announcements are being made,” he said in Rajya Sabha.

Till March 4, around 6,11,176 passengers have been screened at different points.

While screening facility has been provided at 21 airports by now, Indians have been advised against travel to China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan, the minister said.

The visas of people travelling to India from the aforementioned countries — if issued after March 3, and in the case of China, February 5 — have been suspended immediately, Harsh Vardhan further informed.

Further, the health minister said the Indian Embassy and officials are in regular contact with the Indian community in China and is keeping a constant track of their well-being.

Harsh Vardhan also informed a containment facility has been in Agra.

“We’re confronted with new challenges… We have started a containment facility in Agra,” the Health Minister said.

On Indian pilgrims and students stranded in Iran, Harsh Vardhan said: “We are particularly concerned about Indian pilgrims and students stranded in Iran. The Indian government is following up with Iran on their condition.”

The minister had on Wednesday said that India intends to set up a laboratory in Iran — where the death toll has crossed 100 — so that Indians there can be tested. An estimated 1,200 Indians, mostly students and pilgrims, are in Iran.

Following the Health minister’s address, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Centre should tell people not to panic.

Meanwhile, in Lok Sabha, DMK MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi raised the issue of having only one virology institute in Pune. She stated that the Pune institute was just not enough in view of the rising cases of the deadly virus in the country. “It is not enough. We should have this institute in different zones of the country.”

A BJP MP said in Parliament today that Rahul Gandhi “must get tested for Coronavirus as he has just returned from Italy and may end up spreading it”.

Ramesh Bidhuri, a BJP MP from Delhi, said in Lok Sabha that “many people from Italy” had tested positive for the virus.

“Rahul Gandhi returned from Italy just six days ago, so he should be checked for coronavirus,” Bidhuri said in the House.

India is on high alert after it saw a sharp rise in Coronavirus cases from six on Tuesday to 29 on Wednesday. Among the total, 16 are Italian tourists – 14 quarantined at a ward in Medanta hospital in Gurgaon and an elderly couple in Jaipur.

Amid the rising number of virus cases, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will on Thursday meet key partners of private healthcare units for case management.

“Private sector shall also be engaged for COVID-19 management. Health Minister will meet with key partners today evening,” a statement issued by the Health Ministry said.