New Delhi: India on Monday reported two new cases of the novel coronavirus, including one from the national capital, the Union health ministry said as the government stepped up its efforts to detect and check the infection which has killed more than 3,000 people globally.
Giving details of the two cases, health minister Harsh Vardhan said the person from Delhi had travelled to Italy, while the other patient who has tested positive for the COVID-19 infection is from Telangana and has a recent travel history to Dubai.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan health minister Raghu Sharma said an Italian tourist has tested positive for coronavirus in Jaipur.
The first sample collected from the tourist on February 29 tested negative but his condition deteriorated so a second sample was collected which tested positive on Monday, the minister said, adding, “Since there is a variation in the reports, samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune for testing”.
India had earlier reported three cases from Kerala, including two medical students from Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the deadly novel coronavirus. They had self-reported on their return to the country and tested positive for the infection. They were discharged from hospitals last month following recovery.
Speaking of Monday’s two cases of Indians, Mr Harsh Vardhan said, “Both the patients had self-reported after they developed symptoms. They tested positive. They are stable and being closely monitored.”
The person in Delhi had self-reported at the RML hospital after returning to India while the one in Telangana had initially gone to a private medical facility and then was referred to a government hospital in the state, the minister said.
As part of the government’s contact tracing efforts to control spread of the epidemic, authorities are in touch with the family members and employees in the offices where the two infected persons work.
After the ministry announced details of the Delhi resident who has tested positive for novel coronavirus, the Air India crew who had flown the Vienna-Delhi flight on February 25 on which he was the passenger have been asked to stay in isolation at their homes for 14 days, officials said.
“The crew members of February 25 Vienna-Delhi flight will remain in isolation for 14 days at their respective homes. If, during this period, they show any symptoms related to novel coronavirus infection, they have to immediately contact doctors,” the officials told PTI.
Air India officials said, “The male passenger had travelled to Italy by road. He took the February 25 Vienna-Delhi flight.”
Mr Vardhan also advised people to avoid non-essential travel to Iran, Italy, South Korea and Singapore and said India was in discussions with authorities in Iran and Italy, two countries badly affected by the infection, to evacuate Indians there.
The novel coronavirus or COVID-19, which originated in China, has spread to over 60 countries, including the US, Italy and Iran.
The health minister, who held a meeting of the Group of Ministers constituted to monitor the current status and actions for prevention and management of the virus, said India has already suspended e-visas/visas issued to Iranian and Chinese nationals over the rising number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in these countries.
“Depending on the situation, visa restrictions may be extended to other countries,” he said.
Asked if there could be a drug shortage in the country as around 70 per cent of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) come from China, Mr Vardhan said he has spoken to the minister in-charge who has informed that “we are adequately prepared to deal with the situation as of now”.
Mr Vardhan said around 1,086 people who returned from Iran in recent times have been recommended for community surveillance.
Authorities are screening travellers arriving from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan at 21 designated airports in the country for a possible exposure to the virus, he said, adding, a total of 5,57,431 passengers have been screened at airports and 12,431 at major and minor seaports so far.
He also informed that around 10,24,922 people have been screened in the villages of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim bordering Nepal.
Besides, as many as 25,738 people are under community surveillance across India while 37 people with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 across the country are currently hospitalised and their samples have been sent for testing, a senior health ministry official said.
So far 3,245 samples have been tested out of which five have tested positive for COVID-19 while reports of 23 are awaited, the minister added.
The minister further informed that 112 people including nationals from Myanmar (2), Bangladesh (22), Maldives (2), Chinese (6), South African (1), USA (1) and Madagascar (1) have been evacuated from Wuhan and kept at the ITBP camp at Chhawla. They have tested negative in the first round of tests, he said.
He added that 119 Indians and five foreign nationals have also been brought back from Japan through an Air India flight on February 27.
They all have tested negative and are kept in the Army Facility at Manesar.
Mr Vardhan also advised people to take precautions and in case of any symptoms report to the nearest public health facility. People may pose their queries at the Health Ministry’s 24x7 Control Room at 011-23978046 or email at ncov2019@gmail.Com, he added.