Coronavirus cases reach 60 in India: As WHO calls outbreak 'pandemic', govt cancels all visitor visas

The number of coronavirus cases in the country crossed 60 on Wednesday, with the Union heath ministry confirming confirming at least 10 new cases

FP Staff March 12, 2020 00:13:47 IST
Coronavirus cases reach 60 in India: As WHO calls outbreak 'pandemic', govt cancels all visitor visas
  • The number of coronavirus cases in the country crossed 60 on Wednesday, with the Union heath ministry confirming confirming at least 10 new cases

  • A group of ministers constituted to review the preparedness to tackle the situation arising out of the new virus issued a new travel advisory suspending all existing visas to the country till 15 April

  • As the cases of the infection continued to swell with over 1,19,400 confirmed cases reported globally, the World Health Organisation said that it was categorising the outbreak of the novel coronavirus as a pandemic.

The number of coronavirus cases in the country crossed 60 on Wednesday, with the Union heath ministry confirming at least 10 new cases amid new restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

As the cases of the infection continued to swell with over 1,19,400 confirmed cases reported globally so far out of which over 4,300 people have succumbed to the virus, the World Health Organisation said that it was categorising the outbreak of the novel coronavirus as a pandemic.

It its second review meeting held under the chairmanship of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, a group of ministers decided to suspended all tourist visas till 15 April in a bid to contain spread of novel coronavirus , according to an official statement.

The suspension will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13 at the port of departure.

The govt also mandated 14-day quarantine for all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15 February.

Visa-free travel facility granted to OCI card holders is also kept in abeyance till 15 April, said a statement. Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission, the release added.

Earlier in the day, after chairing its first meeting, the GoM had expressed satisfaction with the measures taken by states and Union territories to combat the disease and had advised the health ministry to invoke provisions of Section 2 of Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, so that all advisories being issued from time to time by the ministry or states were made enforceable.

Fresh cases in Kerala, Rajasthan and Maharashtra

On Wedensday, discrepancies continued in number of confirmed cases released by the health ministry and those confirmed by various state governments. Even as the health ministry pegged the number of cases at 60, as per state governements, the number may be up to at least 66.

Among the fresh cases, eight were from Kerala and one each from Delhi and Rajasthan since Tuesday, the Union health ministry said and gave state-wise breakup which included five (Delhi), nine (Uttar Pradesh), four (Karnataka) and two in Ladakh.

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Security personnel wear masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus outside a movie theatre in Jammu. PTI

Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab have reported one case each, the ministry said, adding Kerala has till now reported 17 cases, including the three patients who were discharged last month following recovery. The 60 confirmed cases includes 16 Italians tourists, the ministry said.

While the Union ministry maintained that there are two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Maharashtra, the state health officials put the number to eight. Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, meanwhile, said that the total number of cases in the state stood at 10, with eight confirmed cases in Pune and two in Mumbai.

The samples of the two new cases from Maharashtra will be sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune for confirmation, news agency PTI quoted Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as saying.

The two persons, who are the first coronavirus positive cases from Mumbai, had come in close contact with two Pune residents who had returned from Dubai recently and tested positive for coronavirus .

Late in the evening, health officials announced that a man with a travel history to the US had tested positive in Nagpur.

Two employees working with IT companies Dell and Mindtree have been tested positive for coronavirus , according to company statements. However, their locations were not disclosed. The Dell employee had returned from the US, including a visit to Texas while the Mindtree employee also had a travel history abroad, the two companies said in separate statements.

Meanwhile, the health ministers of Telangana and tamil nadu announced that the patients who had tested positive from the state have recovered. The condition of the wife of the Italian tourist who had tested positive in Rajasthan is also improving, PTI quoted officials as saying.

Centre bans entry of cruise ships till 31 March; schools, colleges shut in Jammu and Kashmir

As the infection continued to spread its tentacles in the country, state governments and UTs' took number of initiatives to check and prevent the spread of the infection.

India prohibited entry of any international cruise ship, crew or passenger with a travel history to coronavirus -hit countries post 1 February, 2020, to its major ports till 31 March. To prevent the spread of the deadly virus, the Ministry of Shipping said it will allow only such international cruise ships which had intimated their call to ports by 1 January, 2020. The government said international cruise ships will be allowed only at ports having thermal screening facilities for passengers and crew members.

While Jammu and Kashmir administration ordered closure of educational institutes across the Union Territory and shutting down of cinema halls in the Jammu division till 31 March as a precautionary measure, Karnataka government issued temporary regulation which asked all government and private hospitals to have flu corners for screening of suspected cases of COVID-19 .

According to the regulation, no person/institution shall use print or electronic media to spread mis-information on COVID-19 without prior permission of the Department of Health and Family Welfare. If a person is found indulging in any such activity, they will be punished, it said.

The Karnataka government also started a campaign called 'Namaste over Handshake' that encourages people to greet in the traditional Indian style, to tackle the spread of the virus.

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray indicated that the ongoing Budget session of the state legislature, scheduled till 20 March, will be curtailed and it is likely to conclude over the weekend after completion of pending business.

He said the decision is being taken to prevent strain on the administration and allow legislators to visit their constituencies and be on the field. He added that a decision on closing down schools in Pune will be taken after a few days as the Class 10 board exams are currently underway.

83 people brought back from Italy

Making a statement in Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said the situation in Italy and Iran is "a cause of great concern" and the government is making all efforts to bring back Indians after appropriate testing and screening. He said a medical team will leave for Italy tomorrow for screening Indians. Noting that the disease has spread to about 90 countries, Jaishankar said if the government starts the process of bringing back Indians worldwide, then it will be only add to the panic.

An Air Indian flight carrying 83 people, including nine foreigners of India origin, arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday from Italy and have been quarantined at the Army facility in Manesar near Delhi, officials said.

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Indonesia reported its first death due to the virus. AP

The evacuees will be monitored for two weeks by a qualified team of doctors and staff members, to watch for any signs of infection.

"If any individual is suspected to be infected, he/she will be shifted to an isolation facility," an official added. Daily medical examination of all 83 people will be done at the facility, they said.

The first batch of 58 evacuees from Iran had arrived on Tuesday with 25 men, 31 women and 2 children on board and all evacuees are asymptomatic at present, the ministry said.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who spoke to a few COVID-19 patients admitted at Medanta and Safdarjung hospitals through video calls on Tuesday, said all those infected by the disease were stable and showing signs of recovery.

So far, India has evacuated 948 passengers from COVID-19 affected countries. Out of these, 900 are Indian citizens and 48 belonging to different nationalities including Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, USA, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru, it said. The ministry further said that a total number of 10,57,506 passengers have been screened so far at the airport.

WHO labels outbreak as 'pandemic'

Speaking in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the spread of COVID-19 had reached the level of a pandemic, noting there are now more than 1,18,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 deaths. He said that while the declaration "doesn't change what countries should do" to aggressively contain the virus, the UN health agency is "deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity".

Tedros said, "We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear", even as the virus spread to newer countries including Honduras, which reported its first two cases. Indonesia, Belgium and Bulagria reported the first fatalities arising out of the disease.

In Iran, the toll rose to 354 as the virus killed 63 more people, AP quoted a health ministry person as saying during a live televised briefing. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 9,000, with a report by the FARS news agency indicating that the vice preisdent and two other members had also contracted the disease.

The number  of infections in Spain passed the 2,000 mark with 47 deaths, making it Europe's second most severe outbreak after Italy, AFP reported. Madrid is said to be the worst-hit region with half of the confirmed cases and 31 of the deaths.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date:

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