Coronavirus | WHO informed India on January 11 about virus in Wuhan: RTI reply

In RTI reply, NCDC says WHO official sent an “alert mail” to Union Health Minister

Updated - October 24, 2020 02:08 am IST

Published - October 23, 2020 06:26 pm IST - New Delhi

A health worker with samples of rapid antigen test in progress of coronavirus in Hyderabad. File

A health worker with samples of rapid antigen test in progress of coronavirus in Hyderabad. File

The World Health Organisation (WHO) informed India as early as January 11 that the reported dates of onset of novel coronavirus circulating in China’s Wuhan ranged between “12-29 December 2019,” according to information accessed through Right to Information (RTI).

The RTI reply shows that the WHO also “advised against any travel or trade restrictions on China based on the information currently available on this event.”

Also read: Coronavirus remains active on human skin for 9 hours: study

In the RTI reply, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, New Delhi, sent an “alert mail” to Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on January 11, 2020, regarding “novel corona virus circulating in Wuhan.”

The RTI was filed by Jammu resident Rohit Chaudhary, where he sought to know “the date when the Government of India first received information on the Covid19/Coronavirus/Wuhan Virus/China Virus .”

Also read: Coronavirus | Need to continue extreme caution against COVID-19: WHO

Dr. Singh’s mail to the Health Minister said, “I am writing to alert Your Excellency on the novel corona virus circulating in Wuhan, China. As you may know this causes a severe pneumonia. Thus far, fifty-nine (59) cases in total have been detected in Wuhan city as of 5 January through case finding and retrospective investigations. One death has been reported today, six of these cases are reported to be in severe condition, the remaining 52 cases are stable. The reported dates of onset range between 12-29 December 2019.”

First known case found in India on Jan. 30

After the first known case was detected in India on January 30 , more than 77 lakh COVID-19 cases and around 1.17 lakh deaths have been reported in the country so far.

Also read: Coronavirus | Gear up for vaccine roll out, WHO tells countries

India first imposed a 21-day countrywide lockdown on March 23 in the wake of the pandemic and shut all international travel through land, air and sea routes on March 22. Since January 18, all passengers coming from China and Hong Kong were screened for fever at three international airports, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in an affidavit in the Supreme Court on March 31.

The status report filed in the court said that after China announced on January 7 about “a new type of corona virus as causative agent for disease,” India’s joint monitoring mission under Director General of Health Services met on January 8 to monitor and analyse the situation without wasting any time.

The RTI reply said that “to look into the possibility of declaring corona virus a health emergency, meetings of the Joint Monitoring Groups were held on 15 January, 30 January, 6 February and 10 February 2020 to review the situation of Covid-19 outbreak and related preparedness and response activities...”

The WHO Regional Director’s mail further stated that preliminary investigation found “no evidence” of sustained human to human transmission and there were no infections reported among health care workers and based on the still limited amount of information available, the situation may evolve rapidly.

Dr. Singh also wrote that “the current WHO advisory does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers.”

She also said in her mail, “It is generally considered that entry screening offers little benefit, while requiring considerable resources. In case of symptoms suggestive to respiratory illness before, during or after travel, the travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share travel history with their health care provider. WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China based on the information currently available on this event”.

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