Govt directs 12 major ports to put in place screening, quarantine system

The government on Friday directed all 12 major ports to immediately put in place screening, detection and quarantine system for disembarking seafarers and cruise passengers to prevent the novel coronavirus even as officials said the situation was under control in the country and was being regularly monitored, including by the Prime Minister’s Office.

A detailed statement regarding the situation and measures taken to check the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus (nCoV) was made by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in Rajya Sabha.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted that many Indian crew and some Indian passengers on-board the cruise ship Diamond Princess were quarantined off Japan due to the coronavirus.

“None have tested positive, as per the latest information provided by our Embassy (in Tokyo). We are closely following the developments,” he said.

As the coronavirus continued to spread at an alarming pace in China with official death toll of 637 and confirmed cases of the infection over 31,000, India stepped up its efforts to detect and check the virus, which originated in Chinese city of Wuhan.

All the 12 major ports in the country were directed by the shipping ministry to “place a screening, detection and quarantine system immediately for disembarking Seafarers or Cruise Passengers”, an official release said.

These ports were also instructed to procure N-95 masks as well as thermal scanners to screen passengers, besides obtaining self-declaration from arriving crews/passengers, it said.

In a detailed update, Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan in a statement said as many as 1,39,539 passengers from 1275 flights have been screened for a possible exposure to the virus so far at the 21 identified airports.

As of now 1232 samples have been tested and 1199 samples were found negative apart from the three positive samples from Kerala, it said, adding 30 samples were under process of testing.

The statement also said 6,599 persons were presently under community surveillance in 29 states and UTs while 128 were admitted to isolation wards at various hospitals across the country.

All 647 people evacuated from China’s Wuhan city who were lodged at the quarantine facilities set up by the security forces in and around Delhi, and had tested negative for nCoV will be re-tested on day 14 of the quarantine period, it added.

Sudan on Friday chaired a video conference with health secretaries from states and UTs along with senior officials from several ministries — shipping, external affairs, civil aviation, tourism and home affairs — to review their preparedness for the prevention and management of nCoV.
The government on Wednesday issued an updated travel advisory saying the existing visas (including e-visa already issued) are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China.

The government has also asked people to refrain from travelling to China, and said travellers on return could be quarantined.
Sudan also reiterated that the new visa restrictions/advisories are issued in view of the emerging scenario globally and asked states to enhance the awareness activities regarding the updated advisories.

She also asked the states and UTs to stay on alert. She informed that a portal has been put in place as a special surveillance web tool to monitor the cases on real-time basis.

“This will also help for national-level monitoring. All the states and UTs need to fill the data accurately and in timely manner,” she said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla met a group of envoys, including Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong. Shringla conveyed India’s appreciation to China for facilitating evacuation of Indians from the coronavirus-hit Wuhan city.

Apart from India, as per the World Health Organisation, the virus has spread to many countries, including Thailand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, United States, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Russia, Finland, Spain, UAE and Sweden.