India confirms 30th coronavirus patient, 30,000 people under watch
India confirmed its 30th coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patient on Thursday and authorities widened the number of people under watch for the illness to close to 30,000, ramping up containment efforts that also included an order for all primary schools in the national capital to be closed for the rest of the month.
The confirmed patient identified on Thursday is a 57-year-old Ghaziabad resident, who returned from Tehran, Iran, on February 23 and was approached by health workers on Monday. He was isolated and swabbed for samples, which turned out to be positive.
The country now has 27 active patients – three patients in Kerala recovered last month – and authorities are now looking for more people who may have been in close contact with them.
Till Thursday, “28,529 people with history of travel to a Covid-19-affected country, or contact with a positive case, are have been brought under community surveillance and monitoring,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said in Parliament, where he made a suo motu statement on the outbreak in both Houses.
The contact-tracing operation is crucial to avert a wider community transmission. “…in addition to Covid-19 cases related to travel, some cases of community transmission have also been observed, it has been decided to involve district collectors and States have been asked to form rapid response teams as the district, block and village levels,” the Union health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
All confirmed patients are stable, including the three from Kerala who are now discharged and disease-free, the ministry statement added.
All but three current patients – two in Jaipur and one in Hyderabad – out of the 27 are in hospitals in the national capital region (NCR). These include the Delhi resident who was confirmed a patient on Monday, his relatives from Agra; a group of Italian tourists, and an Indian who worked as a driver for them.
The latest patient, a businessman, has been taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital. “His sample was taken and sent for testing on March 3 and on afternoon of March 4 he was shifted to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Delhi after he developed symptoms of headache and fever. We have quarantined his two family members at home as well as three people who worked at his office in Ghaziabad. They are under close surveillance,” said Dr NK Gupta, chief medical officer (CMO) of Ghaziabad.
The number of people sickened by the rapidly spreading virus was close to 97,000 on Thursday evening, with over 3,300 of these believed to have succumbed to the consequent illness. The pathogen, similar to the Sars virus that spread in 2002-2003, leads to cough, fever and, in serious cases, respiratory distress that can turn fatal.
The virus started spreading in China in late December, but is now recording an exponential spike outside of the country. Iran, South Korea and Italy are among the nations where the outbreak is now most serious.
“We are calling on every country to act with speed, scale and clear-minded determination,” WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing at the UN health agency’s Geneva headquarters.
Tedros also voiced concern that “some countries have either not taken this seriously enough, or have decided there is nothing they can do”.
He added: “This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.”
India has activated its massive health care machinery to trace and isolate new infections, tapping into a network of more than 300,000 workers who are deployed across the country.
Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the administration has order all primary schools to close till March 31.
“As a precautionary measure to prevent the possibility of spread of Covid-19 amongst our children, the Delhi Government has directed immediate closure of all primary schools (Govt/ aided/ private/MCD/NDMC) till 31/3/20,” Sisodia said in a tweet.
India also revised its travel advisory and asked passengers from South Korea and Italy to produce a certificate saying they are Covid-19 free.
“In addition to Visa restrictions already in place, passengers travelling from /having visited Italy or Republic of Korea and desirous of entering India will need certificate of having tested negative for Covid-19 from the designated laboratories authorized by the health authorities of these countries. This will be enforced from 0000 Hrs of 10 th March, 2020 and is a temporary measure till cases of COVID-19 subsides,” said health ministry in statement.
Till Thursday, 649,452 passengers from 6,550 flights had been screened for signs of an infection.