More than 1.97 lakh passengers travelling in 1,818 flights had been screened for the novel coronavirus , Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday as he outlined the steps taken by the government to deal with the infection since its outbreak last month.
Issuing a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha, Dr. Vardhan said the screening of the passengers had been initiated at 12 major seaports and all minor ports to identify passengers and crew members coming from China and isolate them in case they were found symptomatic.
He told the House that India had also provided support to other countries in tackling the challenge posed by the nCOV disease.
“The ICMR has offered to do testing of samples for other South East Asian Region countries. Testing of samples from Maldives has already been undertaken. Request from Afghanistan for samples testing has been agreed to. We have agreed to provide technical assistance to Bhutan in screening of passengers also,’’ he said.
He thanked the Air India, its crew and the team of doctors and the para medical staff who brought back 654 passengers — 647 Indians (including two embassy officials who were on the ground in Wuhan to coordinate the evacuation operation) and seven Maldivians.
He said the government had initiated screening at all integrated checkposts from Nepal in collaboration with U.P., Uttarakhand, Bengal, Sikkim and Bihar, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Land Port Authorities.
“In our country, three positive cases have been reported so far from Kerala. All these cases have travel history from Wuhan. They have been isolated and are reported to be clinically stable,” Mr. Vardhan said.
The government had already constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by the Health Minister to monitor the virus. Besides, gram sabhas were being organised near the border with Nepal to create awareness.
So far, 1,510 samples had been tested of which 1,507 were found negative. Three samples had tested positive and 27 were under process.
The Minister said China had reported the outbreak on December 31. “The outbreak was initially noticed in a seafood market in Wuhan city in Hubei Province early December and in a short span has spread to all the provinces of China. As on February 9,37,198 confirmed cases and 811 deaths had been reported there while 354 confirmed cases had been reported from 27 countries [including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan]. The number of cases and deaths reported from China is showing an upward trend,’’ he said.