Maharashtra gears up to tackle coronavirus threat

Officials say the isolation wards set up during the H1N1 outbreak in the city will be put to use to fight the new virus.

Officials say the isolation wards set up during the H1N1 outbreak in the city will be put to use to fight the new virus.   | Photo Credit: PAUL NORONHA

Health Department alerts major hospitals; travel and trade industry witnesses drop in bookings to China

With the death toll from the outbreak of a new pathogen — 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) — in China rising to 17, the Health Department has alerted major hospitals in the State to gear up by putting in place infection control measures.

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. The Mumbai international airport had begun thermal screening of travellers from China on January 18. Last week, health authorities in the State held a meeting at the National Institute of Virology in Pune, which is one of the 11 laboratories in the country, under the Indian Council of Medical Research, which are equipped with testing samples of 2019-nCoV.

Dr. Pradeep Awate, the State’s epidemiologist, said, “As far as the preparedness is concerned, we have isolation wards from the time of the H1N1 outbreak. With news of the 2019-nCoV, we are ramping up our infection control measures, and assessing and enhancing overall preparedness.”


On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened an emergency meeting to decide whether or not to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease, which has now been detected in the United States, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Macau. The WHO was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause detected in Wuhan, a city in Hubei province, on December 31, 2019.

Chinese government officials have advised against travelling to Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic, and classified the outbreak in the same category as the SARS epidemic, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the illness and the potential to implement quarantine measures.

Watch | Coronavirus outbreak spreads out of China

With reports of Preeti Maheshwari (45), an Indian living in Shenzhen, contracting the coronavirus, the travel and trade industry has begun to see a drop in bookings to China. Balu Ramachandran, senior vice president, Cleartrip, said, “We are seeing signs of travellers refraining from making bookings to China in response to the news of the outbreak and the advisory against travelling to Wuhan. In fact, last week, we registered a 31% dip in bookings. We are yet to observe immediate traveller reactions in terms of booking cancellations to China.”

Safety measures in place

The government on Wednesday said 9,156 passengers from 43 flights had been screened for 2019-nCoV across major airports in the country. Officials said no case of the virus has been detected so far. In Mumbai, the Airport Health Organisation team has activated a health counter and set up thermal scanners at the pre-immigration area. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport currently operates two airlines — Air China and Rwand Air — catering to passengers travelling to and from China.

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 7:21:29 AM |

Next Story