NEW DELHI: Days after India suspended all visas except for a few categories to firewall itself against the dreaded coronavirus, it further tightened travel restrictions on Monday, imposing blanket restrictions of fliers from the European Union and Britain. “Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from March 18. No airline shall board a passenger from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on March 18.
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The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure,” an advisory from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare read. In fact, the EU itself proposed closing its borders to non-essential travel. “The less travel, the more we can contain the virus. Therefore... I propose to the heads of state and governments to introduce temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union,” EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said. India also announced mandatory quarantine of at least 14 days for passengers coming from or transiting through UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.
“This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 18th March 2020 at the port of first departure,” the advisory read. With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reaching 114 in India, including the first one reported from Orissa, the Centre on Monday proposed detailed social distancing measures that included urging states to close down all schools, universities, theaters, swimming pools, gyms and museums till March 31 and “exploring the possibility of postponing all examinations”.
To deal with examinations, the government suggested they ought to be conducted after ensuring a distance of at least one metre amongst students. The best way, of course, would be to ask students to stay at home and pursue online education for now.
“Social distancing is a nonpharmaceutical infection prevention and control intervention implemented to avoid or decrease contact between those who are infected with a disease causing pathogen and those who are not, so as to stop or slow down the rate and extent of disease transmission in a community,” the health ministry’s advisory said. It (social distancing) eventually leads to decrease in spread, morbidity and mortality due to the disease, the advisory added.
Employers, edu institutes, restaurants asked to enforce social distancing measures
The government has asked private sector employers to allow employees to work from home wherever feasible and also advised that meetings, as far as possible, should be done through video conferences. Social distancing measures, public health experts have said, are the most effective way of breaking the contagion chain and could limit the number of transmission significantly. “Measures like quarantining effected and suspect people and aggressive social distancing could bring the total number of likely coronavirus cases in India by 62 per cent,” Dr Tarun Bhatnagar, a researcher with the National Institute of Epidemiology under the Indian Council for Medical Research, said.
Details of the analysis Bhatanagar has done along with others are set to be published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research by the ICMR. Meanwhile, the advisory by the Centre said all meetings involving large number of people should be minimised or rescheduled, restaurants should ensure hand washing protocol and proper cleanliness of frequently touched surfaces and distancing between tables and encourage open air seating.
China to withdraw med staff from Wuhan
China on Monday announced plans for an orderly withdrawal of thousands of medical staff deployed in the then coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan city, since the outbreak has almost seen its end in the country. The final call will be taken after a month. Over 30,000 medical personnel and staff from the military had been deployed in the city