Assam raises coronavirus alert after Bhutan reports first case; American who tested positive had spent week in state

An American tourist, who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Bhutan, had gone on a weeklong Brahmaputra river cruise on board the MV Mahabaahu, along with three other passengers, embarking and disembarking at various places during the journey

Karishma Hasnat March 06, 2020 23:23:39 IST
Assam raises coronavirus alert after Bhutan reports first case; American who tested positive had spent week in state
  • An elderly US tourist who tested positive for COVID-19 in Bhutan had spent at least a week in Assam as part of his India tour from 21 February to 1 March

  • The American tourist had gone on a weeklong Brahmaputra river cruise on board the MV Mahabaahu along with three other passengers, embarking and disembarking at various places during the journey

  • While the Bhutan has traced over 90 contacts through the patient’s itinerary, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the state govt will trace the places the US tourist had visited while in India

  • It is unclear where the US patient contracted the illness, but he is said to have travelled to Mumbai, Kolkata and Assam before visiting Bhutan

Fear gripped Assam as Bhutan announced its first case of novel coronavirus on Friday. An elderly US tourist who tested positive for COVID-19 was traced to have spent at least a week in Assam as part of his India tour from 21 February to 1 March.

He is travelling with his 59-year-old partner, and had taken a flight to Bhutan from Guwahati on 2 March. Among the ten other passengers on board the Drukair flight, eight are Indian nationals.

"At the Paro International Airport, the patient’s health declaration form was assessed. He had indicated ‘negative’ against all conditions. He did not have a sign of fever," read an official statement by the Bhutan government.

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Representational image. AP

“The patient suffers from chronic hypertension and is on medication. However, even at that time, he did not have any flu symptoms,” the statement further read.

The 76-year-old tourist was tested positive after being kept under observation at a flu clinic designated for COVID-19 patients. It is unclear where the US patient contracted the illness, but he is said to have travelled to Mumbai, Kolkata and Assam before visiting Bhutan.

While the Bhutan government has traced over 90 contacts through the patient’s itinerary that included people he associated with along the way, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the state government will trace the places the US tourist had visited.

The American tourist had gone on a weeklong Brahmaputra river cruise on board the MV Mahabaahu, which is run by a private firm in collaboration with the Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC). The cruise ship has a capacity of about 50 people, and was carrying a small group of tourists on 23 February from Jorhat. There were three other passengers on board the cruise ship, in which the unnamed tourist travelled for seven days, embarking and disembarking at various places during the journey.

"All four of them were US nationals, and two of them have returned to their country. The passenger who has tested positive had not shown any symptoms while being on board — he had no cough or cold. Therefore, the chances of him infecting anybody is remote. Once the passengers disembarked in Guwahati, the (cruise) ship was fumigated as per normal routine procedure before a new group boarded it,” said Sanjay Basu, chairman, Adventure Resort and Cruises.

“Neither the crew members nor passengers have shown any symptoms so far. They are all in good health. We have a paramedic on board the (cruise) ship. Six days have passed, and tomorrow, a medical team from Assam will come for check-up,” added Basu.

The MV Mahabaahu has been sailing since last Sunday with 22 passengers from different countries and 29 crew members on board.

The Guwahati to Jorhat upstream cruise ship covers seven nights and eight days, the first stop being Kamakhya Temple. Tourists are also taken to Umananda or the ‘Peacock Island’ as part of the package. They also get the opportunity to visit Kaziranga National Park, a tea-estate, a tribal village, places of historical interest and the culturally rich river island of Majuli.

Another cruise liner by a Guwahati-based company, Jungle Travels India Private Limited (JTI), remains operational from Guwahati to Silghat near Tezpur. Tourists in this cruise vessel are also taken to Kamakhya Temple and the Kaziranga National park among other sites. Tourism officials could not be reached at the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile, denying any laxity in screening passengers, the Director of Guwahati’s Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Ramesh Kumar said that members of the Airport Health Organization (APHO) have been on the job of identifying all passengers who travelled in the Drukair flight with the US tourist.

Thirty-one cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in India so far, with the latest being reported in Delhi.

 

 

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