Allegation that rich allowed to return without screening ‘preposterous’: Centre
The Centre on Saturday emphasised that India’s response to the coronavirus threat was ‘pre-emptive, pro-active and graded’, dismissing allegations that ‘prosperous Indians’ were allowed to return without screening.
In a statement, the government said India had already put in place a comprehensive response system at its borders much before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ on January 30.
The Centre, it said, took a number of proactive measures, such as travel restrictions, adding more countries and airports for screening, suspension of visas and self-quarantine measures to effectively contain, prevent and manage the spread of the disease.
“The statement that ‘prosperous Indians’ were allowed to return without screening, is preposterous. The government took swift action to put in a place a comprehensive and robust system of screening, quarantine and surveillance are part of its robust response to the public health crisis right from the beginning. This covered every traveller, Indians returning after business, or tourism, students as well as foreigners,” it said.
The statement listed the slew of measures put in place by the government, which it said included a screening of incoming air passengers followed by suspension of visas and a ban on international flights and that all this was done much ahead of any other country.
“A look at the global scenario would highlight that Italy and Spain, which are devastated by Covid-19, had started screening of travellers 25 days and 39 days respectively after first reported case,” it said.
Thermal screening of incoming international passengers from China and Hong Kong was started on January 18, much before the first case of coronavirus disease was detected in India on January 30.
As the disease spread globally, travel advisories were revised and airport screening was also expanded to all airports. Passengers were screened at 30 airports—12 major and 65 minor—and more 36 lakh passengers at land borders, it said.
Passengers were quarantined or sent to hospitals, based on risk assessment, after they were screened at airports. The details of those cleared at airports were shared with the states so that they could be kept under the surveillance for the required number of days.
“A meticulous system has enabled states to track down individuals who tried to avoid surveillance or who did not follow quarantine measures,” the statement said.
The statement also listed a chronology of the decisions taken:
* January 17: Advisory issued to avoid travel to China
* Jan 18: Thermal screening of passengers from China and Hong Kong
* Jan 30: Strong advisory issued to avoid travel to China
* February 3: E-visa facility suspended for Chinese citizens
* Feb 22: Advisory issued to avoid travel to Singapore; Universal screening for flights from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia
* Feb 26th Feb: Advisory issued to avoid travel to Iran, Italy and Republic of Korea. Passengers coming from these countries to be screened, and maybe, quarantined based on screening and risk assessment
* March 3: Suspension of all visas for Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and China; Compulsory health screening for passengers arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.
* March 4: Universal screening of all International Flights. Quarantine or isolation at home or sent to hospital-based on screening and risk profile
* March 5: Passengers from Italy or Republic of Korea need to get a medical certificate before entry
* March 10: Home isolation: incoming international passengers should self-monitor health and follow the government. Dos and Don’ts: passengers with travel history to China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany to undergo home quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival
* March 22: Compulsory quarantine - Incoming travellers (including Indians) arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
* March 16: Expanded compulsory quarantine for travellers from or through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait for a minimum of 14 days.
Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom to India totally prohibited
* March 17: Travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia prohibited
* March 19: All Incoming international flights suspended, with effect from 22nd March
* March 25: Extension of suspension of all incoming International Flights to India extended till April 14