COVID-19 | Two schools shut in Noida, families quarantined; visa suspension extended to 4 countries

Six from Agra with “high-viral load” have been kept in isolation; Modi reviews preparedness.

Updated - March 03, 2020 09:51 pm IST

Published - March 03, 2020 07:49 pm IST - New Delhi/Lucknow

Teachers and students from the Noida school leave the campus as it closed for two days after a student's parent tested positive with COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

Teachers and students from the Noida school leave the campus as it closed for two days after a student's parent tested positive with COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

Two private schools in Noida were shut on Tuesday for the next few days and several persons, including family members of the individual from Delhi who tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) , have been quarantined or kept in isolation as authorities stepped up prevention efforts including extending suspension of existing regular and e-visas to nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan who have not yet entered India.

On February 4, India had cancelled the existing visas for Chinese nationals and foreigners who had visited the neighbouring country in the preceding two-week period, following the COVID-19 outbreak, which has now spread to over 60 countries and claimed over 3,100 lives . Over 90,000 have been infected.

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Officials said the sample of an Italian tourist in Jaipur , which was sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, was found to be positive after the first two tests gave contradictory results. The 69-year-old man, part of a group of 20 tourists, is admitted to an isolation ward in Sawai Man Singh Government Hospital.

With this, six cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the country so far.

As concerns over the spread of the virus mounted after two more persons tested positive on Monday , Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an extensive review on the preparedness. He urged people not to panic and to take basic protective measures.

The Civil Aviation Ministry, too, conducted a meeting with all the airports to review and update guidelines.

Delhi case

Sources said the patient from Mayur Vihar in Delhi , who had travelled to Italy recently, was shifted to a quarantine ward at Safdarjung Hospital on Sunday night.

One school in Noida, in the outskirts of Delhi, said it would remain shut from March 4 to March 6, while another said it would be closed till Saturday. Board exams would not be affected, messages sent by the schools to the parents said.

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This follows reports that the individual who tested positive has a child studying in one of the schools and that some children had met family members for a party on Friday. Samples from five students from the school have been taken to check for the virus, Noida’s Chief Medical Officer Anurag Bhargava said.

Fumigation was also underway in both the schools and a Health Department team led by Mr. Bhargava visited the site, an official said.

Agra on alert

While some family members of the individual and others who came in contact with him were asked to remain quarantined at their homes in Delhi and Agra, six others from Agra with “high-viral load” have been kept in isolation at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi and their samples sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune, officials said.

Contact tracing of the persons who had come into contact with these six persons was also simultaneously being done through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP) network, officials added.

Hotels and the authorities at tourist sites in Agra have been told to inform the office of the Chief Medical Officer as soon as visitors from Italy, Iran or China arrive, so that they can be screened for the infection, Agra Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mukesh Vats said.

The other patient who tested positive for the COVID-19 infection, a 24-year-old software engineer , has been admitted to a hospital in Hyderabad and had recently travelled to Dubai and Bengaluru.

Karnataka Health Minister B. Sriramulu said a medical team is monitoring the health condition of all those people who had come in contact with the software engineer.

“It has come to our knowledge that the coronavirus-hit person in Hyderabad had gone from Bengaluru. Therefore, all the members in the house where he had stayed have been identified and are under watch,” Mr. Sriramulu tweeted on late Monday night.

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The software engineer had worked with persons from Hong Kong in Dubai last month where he is suspected to have contracted the virus, Telangana Health Minister E. Rajender told the media in Hyderabad.

The individual had reached Bengaluru on February 19-20 and later went to Hyderabad in a bus. He had been treated for a fever after coming to Hyderabad and was admitted to a private super speciality hospital in the city. When it did not subside, he came to the State-run Gandhi hospital on Sunday evening, Mr. Rajender said.

India had earlier reported three cases from Kerala, including two medical students from Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the deadly virus. All three individuals have recovered.

Regular visas/ e-visas

The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said all regular visas/e-visas granted on or before March 3 to nationals from Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan , who have not yet entered India, stand suspended in view of the emerging global scenarios with regard to the virus.

Visa on arrival (VoA) issued on or before March 3 to Japanese and South Korean nationals, who have not yet entered India, have also been suspended.

It also said diplomats, officials of the United Nations and other international bodies, OCI cardholders and aircrew from the above countries were exempted from such restriction on entry, although medical screening was compulsory.

“Passengers of all international flights entering into India from any port are required to furnish duly filled self-declaration form [including personal particulars i.e. phone no. and address in India] and travel history, to health officials and immigration officials at all ports.

“Passengers [foreign and Indian] other than those restricted, arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan must undergo medical screening at port of entry,” it said.

The Ministry said all previous advisories stand superseded in view of the fresh instructions.

It also asked all Indian citizens to refrain from travelling to China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and asked them to avoid non-essential travel to other countries affected by the virus.

The Ministry also said India was in discussions with authorities in Iran and Italy, two countries affected badly by the infection, to evacuate the Indian nationals there.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said a review had been undertaken to asses the level of preparedness for the virus. “Had an extensive review regarding preparedness on the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Different ministries and states are working together, from screening people arriving in India to providing prompt medical attention,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet.

“There is no need to panic. We need to work together, take small yet important measures to ensure self-protection,” he said, while also sharing a Health Ministry post.

Meanwhile in Lucknow, samples of an Uttar Pradesh resident who had returned from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday morning have been sent for testing. He will be quarantined for 14 days in the hospital, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Narendra Agarwal.

Also read: Pfizer says it has identified some antiviral compounds with potential as COVID-19 treatments | COVID-19: China reports 125 new cases, lowest number in six weeks | Virus deaths rise to six in Seattle area as U.S. pushes for more testing

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