Govt screens over 9,000 people from 43 flights, no cases found
New Delhi: A total 9,156 passengers from 43 flights were screened for novel coronavirus infection till Tuesday at the seven identified airports including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Till now, no cases have been detected through these screening efforts, Health Secretary Preeti Sudan said.
"As on January 21, a total of 43 flights and 9156 passengers have been screened for novel coronavirus illness. Till now, no case has been detected through these screening efforts. We are on alert and our preparedness is sturdy," Sudan said, while updating on the measures taken by the government for community surveillance and contact tracing.
Sudan further said the Indian Embassy in China has been regularly providing the health ministry with updates on the status of the infected cases in that country.
"The Embassy has informed that a total of 440 cases of pneumonia with novel coronavirus were confirmed in China and nine people have died till Wednesday. Cases have been reported in 14 provinces (including Taiwan) and municiplalities as well," the health secretary said.
She also stated that passengers travelling from China are being requested to report to the nearest public health facility in case they develop any symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat.
"With the Chinese New year holidays going on, I request all the people working and studying there to report at the port of arrival or to the nearest public health facility in case they develop any symptoms," Sudan said.
The Health Ministry has instructed Airport Health Organizations at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin for screening of passengers coming from mainland China.
The Health ministry also has issued a travel advisory asking citizens to follow certain precautionary measures while visiting China. It is put up on the ministry's official website and has been shared on Twitter handle for wider circulation.
Signages have been put up at prominent locations in these airports for encouraging public about self-reporting of illness.
Immigration officers manning the counters have been sensitized at these airports.
"Close coordination is being maintained with Ministry of Civil Aviation to coordinate the screening effort and dissemination of information to inbound passengers through in-flight announcements," the health secretary said.
Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Ministry has directed for all logistics support and arrangements to be made immediately with regard to screening of passengers arriving from China including Hong Kong at the seven identified airports.
Airlines flying in from any airport in China and Hong Kong have been asked to make in-flight announcements requesting passengers with history of fever and cough and travel to Wuhan city in the past 14 days to self-declare at the port of arrival in order to facilitate early isolation.
As part of an action plan by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), airlines staff will also guide passengers in filling up the self-reporting forms, before disembarking, to be checked by staff on arrival.
Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme has issued advisory to all states and UTs to pick up any travel-related case reported in the community and follow-up contacts of suspect and confirmed cases.
The Health Ministry has also 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 coronavirus (CoV) is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus that has killed people in China is a novel strain not seen before.
Common symptoms of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) strain include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
The National Institute Of Virology, Pune, and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Laboratory are coordinating testing of samples for the novel coronavirus (nCoV) in the country.
The health secretary has also written to states and Union Territories to review their preparedness.