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COVID-19 now a pandemic, says WHO; India confirms 60 cases

People enquiring at the COVID-19 helpdesk counter set up at the Thiruvananthapuram Government General Hospital.S. MAHINSHA

People enquiring at the COVID-19 helpdesk counter set up at the Thiruvananthapuram Government General Hospital.S. MAHINSHA  

Over 1,18,000 positive cases have been reported globally across 114 countries

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday said that according to its assessment, COVID-19 “can be characterised as a pandemic.”

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak round-the-clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” it said.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

WHO noted with concern that 1,18,000 positive cases have been reported globally in 114 countries and more than 90% of cases are in just four countries.

‘Changing the course’

Mr. Ghebreyesus said 81 countries had not reported any COVID-19 cases, and 57 countries had reported 10 case or less.

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” he said.

Visas suspended

With rising numbers of confirmed cases of the virus in India, the Central government on Wednesday night issued a new travel advisory stating that all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till April 15. This order will also come into effect from March 13 at the port of departure.

The new advisory, issued affter a meeting of the Group of Ministers, noted that visa-free travel facility granted to OCI card holders is kept in abeyance till April 15.

It added that any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian mission and all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

“Provision for testing primarily for students/compassionate cases in Italy to be made and collection for samples to be organised accordingly. Those tested negative will be allowed to travel and will be quarantined on arrival in India for 14 days,” the release added.

It also noted that international traffic through land borders will be restricted.

Fresh cases

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 60 in India on Wednesday with two fresh positive cases — one each from Delhi and Rajasthan being reported — according to a release issued by the Union Health Ministry.

However, as per health officials from the States, the number of cases may be up to 65, but they are yet to be confirmed by the Centre. “There are now 60 positive cases [including the 3 cases from Kerala discharged earlier],” noted the Health Ministry, which confirmed cases from Kerala (8), Karnataka and Maharashtra reported earlier this week by the State governments.

Army sources said on Wednesday that 83 individuals who arrived from Italy on AI flight AI138 on March 11 have been quarantined at Manesar.

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