NEW DELHI: With India back on the active Coronavirus map, as two persons tested positive on Monday, the Centre said it will pay more attention to community surveillance for people with travel histories from highly-infected countries, a step experts warned might be not enough.
On the last count, the virus had travelled to 72 countries and territories, besides a Japanese cruise ship.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan revealed that two new patients, one in New Delhi and the other in Telangana, caught the deadly bug that has already killed over 3,000 people and infected over 90,000 globally.
While the Delhi patient returned from Italy recently, the one in Telangana had been to Dubai. Their condition is said to be stable.
The government is now trying to identify and isolate people who came in contact with them.
The two new cases are in addition to the three from Kerala earlier.
“At the moment, passengers from 12 countries are being screened for possible infection at airports and seaports. If a need arises on the basis of scientific evaluation, we could screen travellers from more countries in the days to come,” Vardhan said.
But officials in the health ministry conceded that the expanding footprint on the virus could make it tougher for India to combat it.
“It was still easier till the outbreak was mostly localised in China. But with passengers arriving from countries that are reeling from high number of infections, we are feeling more pressure,” a senior ministry official told this newspaper.
Going forward, the government wants to increase community surveillance, for which a training module of state officials will be held this week.” These officials will then train healthcare personnel at the district level,” another official said.
However, experts feared these steps might not be adequate.
“Given the fact that the virus has an extended incubation period, it’s now necessary to take initiatives like testing pneumonia patients without definitive diagnosis in major hospitals, random testing for virus in influenza patients through influenza surveillance programme and equip our hospitals for possible outbreaks,” said Dr G Arun Kumar, a senior epidemiologist with Manipal Institute of Virology.
Travellers from 12 countries including Nepal, China, Hong Kong, Iran, under watch at 21 airports across the country.
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