Coronavirus cases rise to 31 in India after third patient tests positive in Delhi; Iran threatens 'use of force' to limit travel as toll rises to 124

FP Staff

Cases of coronavirus in India rose to 31 on Friday after another man from Delhi tested positive for the flu-like disease which has claimed over 3,000 lives across the world. Till Thursday, there were 30 positive cases domestically, including 16 tourists from Italy and their Indian guide. The latest case is Delhi's third patient.

"The man has a travel history to Thailand and Malaysia. He is stable and being monitored. The total number of confirmed cases in India now stands at 31," a health ministry official said.

Seven family members of the man have been quarantined at their residence in west Delhi.

Among the 31 positive cases in the country include a 45-year-old man from Delhi's Mayur Vihar and six of his relatives from Agra whom he had recently visited. Another is a Paytm employee who works in Gurgaon and lives in west Delhi. They are all being treated at the Safdarjung hospital.

A middle-aged man from Ghaziabad, who tested positive for the virus, is being treated at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in the national capital. A 24-year-old man from Hyderabad, who has also tested positive for coronavirus, has been isolated.

The total figure of positive cases includes the first three reported from Kerala last month. All the three persons have been discharged following recovery.

On Friday, a number of events related to Holi and Women's Day were cancelled, and the University Grants Commission (UGC) asked universities to avoid large gatherings as precautionary measures against coronavirus.

The UGC directed universities to avoid any large gathering in view of the coronavirus outbreak and advised that students and staff members with travel history to the virus-affected countries be quarantined at home for 14 days.

Regarding Women's Day celebrations, the Gujarat government decided to postpone all events scheduled to be held on 8 March, as a precautionary measure, even though no confirmed case of coronavirus has been detected in the state so far, PTI reported.

Meanwhile, the popular daily retreat ceremony between India and Pakistan at the Attari-Wagah border in Punjab will be held without public attendance from Saturday.

The Border Security Force (BSF) said it will continue performing the ceremonial duty of lowering the flag and other drills.

All Central Government employees have been exempted from marking attendance through Aadhaar-based biometric system as a preventive measure till 31 March.

Instead, they will be marking their attendance manually in the attendance register, according to a personnel ministry order.

Central armed police forces like the CRPF and the BSF have also decided to call off official events to celebrate Holi in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Harsh Vardhan holds review meeting with state, UT officials

During the day, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan held a meeting to review preparedness for COVID-19 management, through video conference with health ministers, chief secretaries of all states and Union territories, Central ministers and representatives from the related organisations, and stressed on the need for ensuring that testing and quarantine facilities, isolation wards, and labs are kept in active readiness.

He asked the states and Union territories to start an information education and communication campaign to remove misconceptions about the respiratory ailment.

Vardhan informed Lok Sabha that a total of 29,607 people are under observation of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) network for novel coronavirus as on 5 March.

The government also said it is in discussions with Iranian authorities to bring stranded Indians back home even as a ferry flight, carrying around 300 swabs of Indians suspected to have coronavirus infection, from Tehran is set to arrive in the National Capital on Friday.

The plane, to be operated by Iran's Mahan Air, will  not have any passengers and Iranians in India will be taken back in its return journey.

Aviation watchdog DGCA issued an order saying aviation personnel will be examined for cold, fever and other symptoms before they are subject to breath analyser tests. The latest instructions would be in force till 13 March.

In a latest advisory, the government said all international passengers irrespective of their nationality are mandated to undergo universal medical screening at airports.

Adequate screening measures have also been put in place and nine more airports have been added to the existing 21, bringing the total number to 30 airports where screening of passengers is being carried out.

With rumours doing the rounds that coronavirus spreads through non-vegetarian food like eggs, chicken, mutton, and seafood, Union Fisheries, Dairy and Animal Husbandry Minister Giriraj Singh asked people not to pay attention to them.

He said even the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as well as the Indian food safety regulator FSSAI have said there was no scientific evidence to prove transmission of coronavirus from animals to humans.

Delhi govt shuts anganwadis, tells schools to stop morning assemblies

The Delhi government has directed schools in the national capital to suspend morning assembly as a precautionary measure. The Directorate of Education (DoE) has also advised schools to withhold biometric attendance for staff till further orders.

The primary classes of all schools in the National Capital have been closed till 31 March, but students of secondary classes and staff are required to attend school.

Anganwadis in Delhi have also been closed in view of the coronavirus scare, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

Awards functions, fashion week postponed

The 21st edition of International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, which was scheduled to be held from 27 to 29 March at Indore and Bhopal, has been postponed in light of the coronavirus scare, organisers said.

Fresh dates and plan for hosting IIFA in the state will be announced at the earliest, an official said.

Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week, set to take place from 11 to 15 March in Delhi, was also postponed.

13 Italians kept in isolation in Punjab, Sonia tells Congress CMs to ensure precautions

In Punjab, 13 Italian tourists were kept in isolation overnight at their hotel in Amritsar by the health department to check for coronavirus symptoms.

However, they showed no symptoms of the virus in the medical check-up done on Friday and were allowed to leave for Delhi.

State Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said no positive case of coronavirus has been reported in Punjab so far. He also said that the Punjab government has notified coronavirus as "epidemic".

Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to the chief ministers of all states ruled by the party, instructing them to put in place effective response measures to deal with the spread of coronavirus and lend all possible support to public healthcare responders.

In Mizoram, at least 41 people who recently returned from abroad have been put under home isolation as a precautionary measure and 14,868 people have been screened for coronavirus, state Health Secretary H Lalengmawia said. He said that 41 people who recently returned from China, Singapore, Macau, Dubai, the US, Seychelles and Hongkong did not show any symptoms of novel coronavirus.

'This is not a drill', says WHO; Iran toll rises to 124

The global march of the new virus triggered a vigorous appeal from the World Health Organisation for governments to pull out "all the stops" to slow the epidemic, as it drained colour from India's spring festivals, closed Bethlehem's Nativity Church and blocked Italians from visiting elderly relatives in nursing homes.

As China, after arduous weeks, appeared to be winning its epic, costly battle against the coronavirus, the fight was revving up in newly affected areas of the globe, unleashing disruptions that profoundly impacted billions of people.

The UN health agency urged all countries to "push this virus back," a call to action reinforced by dramatic surges in new cases. The virus has infected 98,000 people and killed over 3,300.

"This is not a drill. This is not the time for giving up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.

Iran said Friday the new coronavirus has killed 124 people amid 4,747 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic as authorities warned they may use "force" to limit travel between cities.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour offered the figures at a televised news conference. He did not elaborate on the threat to use force, though he acknowledged the virus now was in all of Iran's 31 provinces.

The threat may be to stop people from using the closed schools and universities as an excuse to go to the Caspian Sea and other Iranian vacation spots. Semiofficial news agencies in Iran posted images of long lines of traffic of people trying to reach the Caspian coast from Tehran on Friday despite authorities earlier telling people to remain in their cities.

Iran on Thursday announced it would put checkpoints in place to limit travel between major cities, hoping to stem the spread of the virus.

With inputs from agencies

Also See: Coronavirus outbreak: Telangana faces shortage of masks, increase in prices amid COVID-19 scare; 28 cases confirmed in India

Coronavirus outbreak: Gurgaon PayTM employee tests positive after returning from Italy, says company

Modi, Shah call for low-key Holi as confirmed coronavirus cases rise to 29; schools, railways advise precautions

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