Number of coronavirus cases rises to 44, surveillance at points of entry strengthened
New Delhi: A three-year-old child in Kerala who returned from Italy with its parents over the weekend is among India's five new coronavirus patients, taking the total number of cases in the country to 44, Health Ministry officials said on Monday.
Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu reported one case each, officials said.
One more case was reported positive for coronavirus by state officials in Karnataka, but there was no immediate confirmation from the Union Health Ministry.
The ministry in a statement also clarified that the patient from Murshidabad, West Bengal, who died on Sunday had tested negative for the infection and "hence so far no death has been reported due to the disease in the country".
In the wake of rising cases of coronavirus, the Cabinet Secretary held a meeting via video conference with chief secretaries of all states and Union territories on Monday.
He laid emphasis on actions such as surveillance at points of entry (PoE), surveillance in the community, laboratory support and hospital preparedness.
He also called upon states and UTs to scale up logistics, quarantine facilities, capacity building, information management and risk communication, an official statement said.
"One more new case has been reported from Punjab. Thus, as of now there are 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country," the ministry said in a statement, adding the figure includes the three patients from Kerala who were discharged last month following recovery.
As many as 11,913 cases are under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) community follow-up. Also 404 Indian contacts of the US citizen tested positive in Bhutan have been identified and put under surveillance in Assam, the ministry said.
As the COVID-19 scare spread -- with 110,041 people from more than 90 countries infected and 3,825 people killed -- India sent a military transport aircraft with a specialist medical team to Iran on Monday night to bring back Indians stranded in the nation.
About 2,000 Indians are living in Iran, where 7,000 people have tested positive for the contagious disease with flu-like symptoms and 237 people killed.
According to the Indian Air Force, its C-17 Globemaster military aircraft left for Iran from the Hindon airbase at 8.30 pm and will return on Tuesday morning.
"The aircraft has a specialist medical team onboard. Indian citizens will be flown to Hindan where medical facilities including quarantine have been set up," the IAF tweeted.
So far, Government of India has evacuated 890 passengers from COVID-19 affected countries.
Out of these, 842 were Indian citizens and 48 belonging to different nationalities including Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, US, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru, the ministry said.
Giving details of the new cases reported in India, officials said the patient in Jammu, the first case in Jammu and Kashmir, is learnt to have a travel history to Iran while the patient from Uttar Pradesh had come in contact with the six people from Agra who had tested positive.
The Delhi patient has no travel history and had come in contact with a positive patient from the city, Delhi Health Department officials added.
With Delhi recording its fourth coronavirus case, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan chaired a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior officials.
"We are sending detailed guidelines to all states on ways to contain the coronavirus. We have asked states to strengthen laboratories and manpower to effectively deal with the coronavirus and form early rapid action teams," Vardhan told reporters.
A Punjab official said in Chandigarh on Monday that a Hoshiarpur resident, who returned from Italy last week, was tested positive for coronavirus, the first such case in the state. Later, the Centre confirmed the case.
In Karnataka, a software engineer who returned from the US recently has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, becoming the first COVID-19 patient in Karnataka, state Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar said on Monday.
Asserting that the government is prepared to deal with the outbreak, Vardhan stressed on the need for coordinated action between departments and agencies for activities such as contact tracing, community surveillance, hospital management and ensuring adequate personal protection equipment and masks.
A total of 9,41,717 international passengers from 8,827 flights have been screened at airports till now with 54 passengers being referred to IDSP/ hospitals, the ministry said.
To meet the increasing demand and convenient screening of passengers, manpower deployed at airports have been substantially increased.
There are now 286 doctors, 160 nurses and 295 paramedics stationed at airports across the country, it informed.
Of the 3,003 samples tested for COVID-19 so far, 44 were positive and 2,694 samples returned negative results. The results of the other cases are awaited.
Underlining the Centre's preparedness to deal with COVID-19, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers D V Sadananda Gowda said in Bengaluru that there was sufficient stock of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), need to make medicines, for the next three months.
In the Kerala town of Kochi, officials said the three-year-old child who tested positive for coronavirus and its parents landed at the Cochin International Airport Limited at 6 am on March 7 from Italy.
They underwent thermal screening and the child was detected with symptoms of the disease. The family was immediately referred to the isolation ward of the Kalamassery Medical College Hospital, they said.
Samples of the parents have also been sent for lab tests, the officials added.
The five cases from Kerala reported on Sunday are three members of a family with a travel history to Italy and two of their relatives who came in contact with them.
The family is reported to have visited relatives and attended few functions and their contacts are being traced, the ministry said in a statement.
Up north, in Jammu, a 63-year-old woman who declared positive was among the two patients declared "high viral load cases" by the administration on the weekend.
They are undergoing treatment at the isolation ward of the Government Medical College (GMC) hospital and are in a stable condition, officials in Jammu said.
"The test report of the woman patient is positive, while the report of the other patient is still awaited," a Health Department official said.
The two with a travel history to Italy, South Korea and Iran had fled the hospital's isolation ward on Wednesday shortly after being admitted there but were brought back within hours of the incident, the official said.
Jammu and Kashmir administration spokesperson Rohit Kansal said they are watching the situation and have put 400 people under surveillance in Satawari and Sarwal areas of Jammu.
In Mangaluru, a person who arrived from Dubai and was admitted to the isolation ward of a hospital with symptoms of coronavirus went missing, sources said.
The number of COVID-19 cases in India, which was just six till last Tuesday, includes 16 Italians as well as three Kerala patients who were discharged last month following their recovery.
The coronavirus scare cast a shadow over Holi on Tuesday in large parts of north India with many people cancelling their celebrations.
Unlike previous years, women devotees, including children and elders, could be seen wearing face masks while preparing the offering, as a precautionary measure in the wake of the virus outbreak. PTI