NEW DELHI/ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Centre on Monday decided to take steps for possible evacuation of over 250 Indians from Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, and announced a raft of precautionary measures to deal with suspected cases.
A meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba reviewed India's preparedness to deal with the virus amid mounting global concern over the increasing number of cases in China and several other countries.
In India, no case has been detected so far though nearly 450 people have been kept under observation in the country, most of them in Kerala, following screening for possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.
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Some, who have returned from China in recent weeks, have approached medical authorities as a precautionary step.
The meeting in Delhi presided by the Cabinet Secretary decided to take a series of precautionary measures including screening of people at international ports having traffic from China as well as at the integrated check posts across the border with Nepal.
Officials said Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities for evacuation of Indian nationals, mostly students, stuck in Wuhan city.
"It was decided that steps may be taken to prepare for possible evacuation of Indian nationals in Wuhan. Accordingly, the Ministry of External Affairs will make a request to the Chinese authorities," a government statement said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani have urged the Centre to take steps to bring back students from their states who are studying in Wuhan.
Wuhan along 12 other cities have been completely sealed by the Chinese authorities to stop the virus from spreading.
The death toll climbed to 80 with 2,744 confirmed cases.
Over 250 to 300 Indian students are reportedly stuck in Wuhan triggering concerns over their well-being.
The statement said the ministry of civil aviation and ministry of health will make arrangements for transport and quarantine facilities respectively.
The meeting also decided that the civil aviation ministry will issue instruction to airlines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China.
Officials said the civil aviation ministry will also ask the airlines to make in-flight announcements and distribute "health cards" to all flights with direct or indirect connectivity to China.
The home ministry will ensure that integrated check posts initiate screening of visitors across Nepal border.
"States have been requested to provide health staff for these check posts. SSB/ BSF/Immigration officers manning integrated check posts have been sensitised," the statement said.
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Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan spoke to chief secretaries and police chiefs of the five states bordering Nepal -- Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim to review their preparedness for prevention and management of the coronavirus.
The Principal Secretary (Health) carried out a similar exercise with other states and Union Territories.
Till Sunday, 29,707 passengers arriving in India in 137 flights have been screened for novel coronovirus infection symptoms and no case has so far been detected in India, officials said.
The Union health ministry has also urged passengers who have a travel history to China since January 1 to come forward for self-reporting at the nearest health facility if they experience any symptoms such as fever, cough, respiratory distress etc.
A Chinese national on tourist visa in Kolkata has been kept in an isolation ward at the Beleghata ID Hospital since Sunday after she complained of high fever and rashes, and officials said they are awaiting her test reports.
They said the foreign national has mild fever and stomach ache, symptoms that do not necessarily suggest the presence of the novel coronavirus "She has been travelling for quite some time and came to India from Madagascar a few months ago...
As a part of precautionary measure, we have isolated the woman till her reports arrive," Principal Secretary of Health Department Vivek Kumar said.
According to the World Health Organisation, the common symptoms of the virus strain include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
At least 436 people, who returned to Kerala from China in recent days, are under observation for possible exposure to the novel coronavirus (nCoV), according to health officials in Thiruvananthapuram.
Five people are still under observation in isolation wards at various hospitals across the state, officials said, adding, all results of blood samples sent to the National Institute of Virology at Pune till now have been found to be negative for the virus.
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While three people are in hospitals at Ernakulam, one each are in Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur, officials said.
Two people, admitted earlier to hospitals in Pathanamthitta and Malappuram, have been discharged.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to arrange for airlifting stranded Indians from Wuhan saying the state had information from relatives of students from Kerala studying at various Universities there that the situation there was "grave."
As many as 3,756 passengers arriving from China were screened for the coronavirus at the international airport here since January 18, but no confirmed case of the deadly disease has been found so far in Mumbai, a state health department official said on Monday.
Five people are under observation in Maharashtra, including three who have tested negative.
Reports of the others are awaited, the official said.
A high-level meeting was held in chaired by Pradeep Vyas, principal secretary, public health department, to review preparations to deal with any situation.
"The government will prepare a list of passengers who have returned to Mumbai from China since January 1 this year and will enquire about their health condition," the official said.
A woman who returned from China last week was admitted to a Patna hospital on Monday with symptoms similar to those of coronavirus.
The woman who is in her 20s returned home to Chapra, the headquarters of Saran district, from China on January 22 and she was taken to the Chapra Sadar Hospital three days later.
Thermal sensors have been installed at Amritsar international airport to screen passengers for deadly novel coronavirus, the Punjab government said, adding it will also set up a screening facility at Mohali international airport on Tuesday.
Thermal screening is already being done at many airports including in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi.
The state health department also found no symptoms of the virus among four passengers, three at Amritsar airport and one at Mohali airport, who travelled to China recently, state health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said, adding people who travelled to China in the last 28 days can report to their nearest district hospital for any assistance.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has urged External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to intervene after parents of students studying in Wuhan sought help for their safe return.
The state government said as many as 100 students from the state are stuck in China, and informed that Rupani has spoken to Jaishankar on phone asking him to ensure their safe return home.
Three persons, who had travelled to China but do not have symptoms of the novel Coronavirus, were under observation of medical authorities in Hyderabad.
The three approached the authorities in view of spread of the virus in China and they were admitted to the state-run Institute of Tropical Diseases (Fever hospital) in the city, medical sources said.
However, two of them have since been discharged after being advised to stay put at home, they said.
As part of preventive steps, two residents of Bengaluru who returned from China about ten days ago, have been kept under medical supervision at a hospital, the Karnataka Health Department said.
Another person who was admitted for medical supervision three days ago had been discharged after he tested negative.
The Goa government has decided to form a special task force to deal with the situation.
Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has said that people arriving in Goa from the virus-affected regions outside India would be closely monitored.
"I have given instructions to form a special task force to monitor any cases of coronavirus in Goa.
All the activities, including people arriving from the virus-affected regions, would be closely monitored and information reported to the state Chief Secretary," Rane said.
The task force will work as per the guidelines laid down by the Union Ministry of Health, he added.