10 things you should know from the health ministry press briefing on COVID-19 today
The latest advisory by the health ministry says that all children under 10 years of age should remain at home.
The latest advisory by the health ministry says that all children under 10 years of age should remain at home. Similarly, anyone over 65 (excluding government employees, medical professionals and public representatives) is advised to stay home unless they need to step out for medical assistance.
States have been requested to enforce work from home for private-sector employees - where possible - except those working in emergency/essential services.
📡LIVE from National Media Centre, #NewDelhi
Press Briefing📺🗞️on actions taken, preparedness and updates on #COVID2019
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Additionally, starting March 22, no scheduled international commercial flights will be permitted to land in India for a week. Railways will be suspending all concessional travel, except for students, patients and divyang category passengers. Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Delhi Arwind Kejriwal announced in a separate press briefing that gathering of over 20 will be banned in the Capital. Earlier, the restriction was on gatherings of over 50. All schools, colleges and universities will remain shut for students as well as teachers until March 31. All board exams are postponed and will be scheduled for after March 31.
Read on for more takeaways from the press briefing by the Union health ministry on the evening of 19 March:
1. ICMR has tested 826 samples to check for community transmission of the COVID-19 virus in India. Is this enough?
In answer to this question, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Luv Aggarwal said that the 826 samples for testing community transmission had been randomly selected in a statistically sound process. Further, he added, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will continue the testing and screening process to "understand how the virus is behaving within the community in the country".
2. Is India going into lockdown?
Luv Aggarwal said: “Lockdown would be the wrong word for the situation at the moment.” He explained that the key is to maintain social distance right now and work together as a community to ensure the safety of everyone. The Central and state governments are advising on best practices to control the spread of the infections.
That said, international flights will not be allowed to land in India from 22-28 March midnight. In addition to this, hospitals have been asked to minimize non-urgent hospitalisation and elective surgeries. And though modes of mass transportation like Metros and rails will continue to ply, there is a directive to decrease the frequency and manage crowds effectively to ensure a safe distance between commuters.
3. Will private labs be allowed to test for COVID-19 infection?
The process of adding private labs to the list of testing centres is ongoing. Identification of labs that have the capabilities required for COVID-19 testing has been done and ICMR will provide all support for them to be able to function optimally, according to Aggarwal.
4. Does India have enough doctors and trained staff to deal with this challenge?
Experts from All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are guiding all the patients in the country via a 24/7 call centre. Anyone who has been confirmed of the infection can call and get advice on their current treatment plan.
In addition to this, Luv Aggarwal said that India has an adequate number of pulmonologists and further, these respiratory-system experts have adequate technical support to deal with the COVID-19 challenge.
5. Are we able to effectively track patients and monitor their condition?
There is a clearly defined protocol for tracing contacts of the confirmed patients and it is being followed. If they have travelled in India, their contacts are being traced in each and every city they visited.
6. What is being done to ensure safe public transport?
When it comes to public transport, it was said action is being taken to manage the crowd, disinfect areas and to maintain a proper distance between passengers. On the other hand, the frequency may also be reduced to encourage social distancing.
7. How many Indians have died of COVID-19 infection?
The death of an Indian national in Iran has been confirmed. The elderly patient takes the death toll to four Indians - in India and abroad.
8. Do we have enough masks to ride out this challenge?
The import of N95 masks was suspended and remains suspended. That said, Luv Aggarwal added, there are sufficient masks available at the moment and an officer has been assigned to each state to coordinate efforts and communicate any requirements.
9. Have the Indians in Iran been evacuated?
201 Indians have been evacuated from Iran and taken to an Army facility in Jaisalmer. They will be under quarantine for 14 days starting from their arrival. On March 21, a Dreamliner will travel to Rome to bring back Indians from Italy.
10. How can we be sure there is no community transmission?
Understanding community transmission is important, Luv Aggarwal said. When a new case is confirmed and you’re able to track the point of exposure, it is considered local transmission. Once the infection starts spreading so rapidly that you’re unable to trace the route of transmission, it turns into community transmission. As of now, there are no signs of community transmission in India.
While asking for volunteers to come forward, Luv Aggarwal said community dialogue is essential. Knowledge about symptoms and precautions is power at this time and misinformation should be shut down and not entertained. The situation is evolving daily. New measures may be introduced and we need to be ready for them even if they are on the more cautious side. The country needs to fight this together.
For more tips, read our article on Coronavirus Infection: Symptoms, types, diagnosis and treatment.
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