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Coronavirus | There was no leniency in screening for foreign travellers, ‘prosperous Indians’, says Centre

An advisory desk, ‘Novel Coronavirus Help Desk’, put up at an airport in Visakhapatnam. (Representational image)

An advisory desk, ‘Novel Coronavirus Help Desk’, put up at an airport in Visakhapatnam. (Representational image)  

Centre refutes allegations that it was lenient towards foreign-return travellers.

India has been “proactive and preemptive, and graded” in its response to the COVID-19 crisis, the government said on Saturday.

Amid criticism that the three-week lockdown announced on March 24 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was without prior planning, the Centre released a timeline of its actions since the breakout of the global pandemic.

As lakhs of migrant labourers remain stranded without food and supplies in several parts of the country due to the lockdown, the government countered criticism that its response system was lenient towards foreign travellers. “…the statement that 'prosperous Indians' were allowed to return without screening, is preposterous. The government took swift action to put in place a comprehensive and robust system of screening, quarantine and surveillance are part of its robust response to the public health crisis right from the beginning. This covered every traveller, Indians returning after business, or tourism, students as well as foreigners,” the release by the Press Information Bureau said.

It said India acted much before WHO declared COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, to put in place a “comprehensive response system” at its borders.

“Screening of incoming air passengers followed by suspension of visas and and ban on international flights was much ahead of any other country,” the government said, pointing out that Italy and Spain, which are devastated by COVID-19, started screening of travellers after 25 days and 39 days respectively of first reported case.

“Though the first case of coronavirus was detected in India on 30th Jan., we had started thermal screening of incoming international passengers coming from China and Hong Kongs on 18th Jan itself,” said the release.

Screening of passengers at 30 airports, 12 major and 65 minor ports and at land borders covered over 36 lakh passengers, the Centre said. It had also started intensive coordination with the States. “A meticulous system has enabled States to track down individuals who tried to avoid surveillance or who did not not follow quarantine,” the government said, adding that 20 video conferences by Union Health Secretary with State Governments and six by the Cabinet Secretary with the State Chief Secretaries have been held to review the preparedness.

Timeline of Centre’s actions to combat corona

  • Jan 17 - Advisory issued to avoid travel to china
  • Jan 18 - Thermal screening of passengers from China and Hong Kong
  • Jan 30 – Strong advisory issued to avoid travel to China.
  • Feb 3 - E- visa facility suspended for Chinese citizens.
  • Feb 22-Advisory issued to avoid travel to Singapore;Universal screening for flights from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
  • Feb 26 - Advisory issued to avoid travel to Iran, Italy and Republic of Korea. Passengers coming from these countries to be screened , and may be quarantined based on screening and risk assessment.
  • March 3: Suspension of all visas for Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and China. Compulsory health screening for passengers arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.
  • March 4: Universal screening of all International Flights. Quarantine or isolation at home or sent to hospital based on screening and risk profile
  • March 5: Passengers from Italy or Republic of Korea need to get medical certificate before entry
  • March 10, Home isolation: incoming international passengers should self-monitor health and follow govt. Dos and Don’ts: passengers with travel history to China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany to undergo home quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival
  • March 11: Compulsory Quarantine- Incoming travellers (including Indians) arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15th February, 2020 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
  • March 16: Expanded compulsory quarantine for travellers from or through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait for a minimum of 14 days. Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom to India totally prohibited.
  • March 17: Travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia prohibited.
  • March 19: All Incoming international flights suspended, with effect from March 22
  • March 25: extension of suspension of all incoming International Flights to India extended till April 14, 2020.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 9:40:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/there-was-no-leniency-in-screening-for-foreign-travellers-prosperous-indians-says-centre/article31189708.ece

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