Coronavirus India updates March 8: Cases rise to 39, Kerala warns those not reporting overseas travel

Vishnu Varma, Sukrita Baruah
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People wearing protective masks at Khan Market in New Delhi on Saturday. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

The Kerala government Sunday warned of strict action, including prosecution, against those hiding travel history to coronavirus-affected countries, and symptoms of the infection. This comes after Kerala reported five fresh cases of coronavirus today, taking the number of confirmed cases in the country to 39.

Allaying fears regarding Indians stranded in Iran amid Covid-19 outbreak, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said efforts are underway for their return from Qom and follow up arrangements were being discussed with Iranian authorities. He added that no cases were reported among the Indian fisherman in Iran.

"Efforts underway for return of Indian pilgrims in Qom, Iran. Screening process has started and follow up arrangements are being discussed with Iranian authorities. This is top priority and Embassy team @india_in_iran is fully engaged on this," Jaishankar responded to the NCP chief Sharad Pawar's tweet.

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The fresh cases have been reported days after the southern state had successfully treated India's first three coronavirus patients -medical students from Wuhan- who have been discharged from hospitals.

Kerala to go ahead with 'Attukal Pongala'

The Kerala government, however, has decided to go ahead with 'Attukal Pongala', one of the largest all-women religious festival to be held on Monday.

Shailaja said persons showing any symptoms of the virus should keep away from the congregation at Attukal temple complex. Temple officials would be asked to ensure that people with fever or any other symptoms do not participate in the festivity. Medical stall and ambulances will be stationed near the temple complex and video clippings of the festivities would also be taken, the minister said.

Three of the five patients had a travel history to Italy, while the remaining two were their relatives. All five hail from Pathanamthitta district, where a high alert was sounded and measures were intensified to track more cases. The patients are under observation and their tests were confirmed on Saturday night, Health Minister K K Shailaja said.

The Health department warning said, failure to inform authorities would be considered a crime, as the state police separately said it was “illegal and punishable” to hide such information. "Strict action, including prosecution, will be initiated against them. Directives of various government agencies should be followed in this regard," it added.

In the southern Pathanamthitta district, all public programmes and religious gatherings have been called off official sources told PTI.

Arunachal Pradesh bans entry of foreigners amid coronavirus outbreak

Arunachal Pradesh Sunday decided to temporarily suspend issuing Protected Area Permits (PAPs) to foreigners, news agency PTI reported. Foreigners require PAPs to enter the state that shares a border with China. All PAP issuing authorities have been directed to suspend the issue of permits till further orders.

"It is learned that Covid-19 positive cases have been detected in India and the numbers have been increasing. It is also learned that the spread of the coronavirus in India is primarily from visitors who had a history of travelling abroad recently or through tourists who have visited India," the government order said. "In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) in Arunachal Pradesh, it has been decided to temporarily suspend issuing Protected Area Permit (PAP)...," it added.

Explained

What should you do if you have coronavirus symptoms

In the first stage, a nasal or throat swab is tested for the presence of the virus — to detect the “viral load”. Strands of genetic material (for the novel coronavirus it is RNA) are isolated through a process called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). This test can happen at any of the labs in the chart alongside. In the next stage, the identity of the virus is confirmed through genome sequencing. This test is available only at the National Institute of Virology, Pune. The test was developed almost overnight after the identity of the novel coronavirus was revealed in December last year.

With 3 coronavirus patients, Delhi takes steps to contain spread

With three confirmed positive cases of coronavirus in the national capital, the Delhi government announced a set of precautionary measures on Sunday. The government has designated 25 hospitals - 19 government hospitals and 6 private hospitals - as centres in which the samples of suspected cases can be collected. The government has also passed an order that all metro and bus facilities and all hospitals will be disinfected on a daily basis.

It also announced that 1,40,603 persons flying into Delhi from abroad have been screened at the airport. For this purpose, the government has deployed 40 doctors in the airport. The individuals who have travelled into the country and live in Delhi have also been placed under surveillance for 14 days. During this duration, government healthcare workers will call them twice a day each day to ask if they are displaying any symptoms.

The Union Health Ministry has asked the AIIMS administration to designate a part of the new emergency wing for setting up of isolation beds. Six other AIIMS have been directed to keep an isolation bed capacity between 12-15 for coronavirus patients, which can be scaled up to 30 if need arises, PTI quoted officials as saying.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Jhajjar has also been asked to augment its isolation bed capacity to 125 from the existing 25. Also, the Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry has been asked to keep aside 13 beds for isolating patients.

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Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also appealed to citizens to not buy hand sanitizers and masks in panic, and said that people who do not display symptoms should avoid wearing masks. He also appealed to citizens to avoid crowded places even on Holi.

Schools in Jammu & Kashmir shut till end of March

On Saturday, two people in Ladakh tested positive for the virus. They had travelled to Iran recently. As a precautionary measure, the Union Territory administration has ordered the immediate closure of all the primary schools in Jammu & Kashmir till March 31. Biometric attendance across the UT stands suspended and “no large social/official gathering” will be allowed until March 31, the authorities said.

Assam on alert after two US tourists test positive in Bhutan

After two US nationals were tested positive for coronavirus in Bhutan, over 150 people who had come in contact with them during their tour in India, been placed under community surveillance, sources in the health ministry said. Eight Indian passengers who had travelled with the Americans on a plane from Guwahati to Paro have also been quarantined.

Coronavirus suspect cases: 3 passengers put in isolation in Kolkata

Passengers on all international flights are being screened upon their arrival in India

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The Guwahati hotel in which the duo stayed was sealed and the river cruise ship M V Mahabahu on which they travelled has been quarantined at Neamatighat. The vessel has been fumigated and crew members are being examined for any symptoms that they might show.

"There is no need to panic as the US tourist had tested positive three days after leaving Assam. Wherever he had travelled in Assam, we have taken special measures in those places," Minister of State for Health Pijush Hazarika said, news agency PTI reported.

Samples of Indians stranded in Iran being tested

On the other hand, at least 108 samples of Indians stranded in Iran are being tested at AIIMS. Six scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have been stationed in Iran, and equipment and reagents, worth approximately Rs10 crore, have been dispatched to enable them to set up a lab there. Only those who test negative can fly to India.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar also urged External Affairs Minister S Jaishnkar to ensure medical help and general assistance for Indians stranded in Iran. "In the wake of the alarming Covid-19 issue, I voiced my concerns to Dr. S. Jaishankar ji, Union Minister of External Affairs regarding more than 40 Indian citizens stranded at Qom city in Iran. They are distressed and in urgent need of medical help and general assistance," Pawar tweeted.

In reply, Jaishankar said efforts were underway for return of Indian pilgrims in Qom Iran and the screening process has started. "Efforts underway for return of Indian pilgrims in Qom #Iran. Screening process has started and follow up arrangements are being discussed with Iranian authorities. This is top priority & Embassy team @india_in_iran is fully engaged on this," he tweeted.

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A lift operator stands inside a dedicated lift for people suspected to be infected with the new coronavirus at the Government Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad (AP)

India's 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers match against Qatar scheduled for March 26 in Bhubaneswar has been postponed while Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said "discussion" is underway on whether the IPL, set to start from March 29 in Mumbai with a match between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, should be postponed in view of the coronavirus scare. Bollywood award function IIFA, which was expected to take place later this month in Madhya Pradesh's Indore, has been postponed in the wake of the virus.

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So far 7,26,122 people who have alighted from 7,108 flights have been screened at airports. Between Friday and Saturday, 73,766 passengers from 573 flights have undergone screening at airports.

Mizoram Congress asks state govt to seal Indo-Myanmar border

The Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) Sunday asked the state government to seal the Indo-Myanmar border to prevent the spread of coronavirus, PTI reported. Mizoram shares a 510 km international border with Myanmar.

People wear masks as they wait inside Central train station, in Milan, Italy. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)

A statement issued by MPCC said that many traders from China and other southeast ASEAN countries enter Mizoram from the border without undergoing screening. The committee applauded the state government for sealing the Indo-Myanmar border in south Mizoram's Siaha district and urged it to seal border in Champhai and other districts.

Tamil Nadu: 15-year old boy admitted to hospital

In Tamil Nadu, a 15-year old boy who arrived in Chennai from the US via Doha with his father was sent to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital as he showed some symptoms associated with fever during screening at the airport, PTI quoted officials as saying.

Karnataka: One more person sent to isolation ward

A person showing symptoms of novel coronavirus was admitted to an isolation hospital in Dakshina Kannada district on Sunday. "A total of 16 samples collected from symptomatic patients from different parts of the state were sent for testing on Sunday," a media bulletin read.

Indians wearing masks walk inside Government Medical College hospital in Jammu. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

With this, the total number of persons still admitted in isolation wards has risen to six in Karnataka - one each in Bengaluru, Ballari, Bagalkot, Vijayapura, Hassan, and Dakshina Kannada, according to top officials of the health department. However, Karnataka has not recorded any positive cases to date.

According to data from the Department of Health and Family Welfare service, a total of 87,066 passengers have been screened in the state to date. Of this, while a total of 57,430 passengers were screened in Bengaluru airport, as many as 24,380 passengers underwent the same in Mangaluru airport.