Coronavirus outbreak: India reports its first case of deadly virus from Kerala

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 30 (PTI) India reported its first case of the Coronavirus in Kerala on Thursday and the patient has been kept in an isolation ward, the state health minister said even as the government stepped up its efforts to detect and prevent the spread of the virus that has killed at least 170 people and infected more that 7,700 in China.

The government will also evacuate Indians on Friday from China's Wuhan city, the epicentre of the deadly Coronavirus, which has spread to at least 17 countries already.

Soon after the confirmed case of the novel Coronavirus (nCoV) was reported in the country, Chinese embassy in New Delhi issued a statement, assuring cooperation to India in jointly strengthening the epidemic prevention and control.

Confirming the first positive case of the Coronavirus, Priya Abraham, director of ICMR-NIV in Pune, said 49 samples have been tested till now at the national institute of virology and one sample has tested positive.

'The positive sample belongs to a student from Kerala who was studying in Wuhan. Now, a next test known as 'next-gen sequencing test' will be done on her sample and the final result will be declared till tomorrow evening,' Abraham said. In Thiruvananthapuram, state health minister K K Shylaja told reporters that the condition of the patient was stable.

India has taken a number of steps to detect and control the deadly virus, which started from a seafood and wild animal market in Wuhan in Hubei province.

The Cabinet Secretary on Thursday reviewed the country’s preparedness with the concerned ministries --health & family welfare, external affairs, defence, home affairs, civil aviation, information & broadcasting, labour & employment, and shipping to tackle the spread of the virus, an official release said, adding he also did a video conference with the chief secretaries of the states and UTs.

During these meetings, it was decided that all those who have come from China after 15 January will be tested for the exposure to the virus and also the lab facilities will be augmented. While six more labs will start functioning from Thursday, including one in AIIMS in Delhi, six more labs will start function by Friday., the release added.

Apart from putting measures in place to battle the spread at home, the government is also getting ready to evacuate its nationals on Friday from China, which continued to scramble to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Indian embassy in Beijing in a note circulated through social media on Thursday said that preparations are on to evacuate Indians from the virus-hit region.

'We are preparing for air evacuation from Wuhan tomorrow in the evening. This flight will carry those Indian nationals who are in and around Wuhan and have conveyed consent for their evacuation,' the note said.

'There will be another flight subsequently which will carry those who are from other parts of Hubei province,' it added.

Talking about the evacuation process, external affairs ministry spokesperson Ravish Kumar in Delhi said,”we have made a formal request to the government of China for bringing back Indian nationals from the Hubei province in two flights. We are awaiting for the necessary approval from the Chinese side. We hope this will be granted soon.” Kumar said arrangements are being put in place for people to travel to the airport in Wuhan.

'We remain committed to the safety and well-being of our nationals abroad. We appreciate the support extended by the government of China and other ministries in the government of India in putting this process together,' Kumar added.

Chinese Embassy Spokesperson Ji Rong said the mission has maintained close communication with India on the issue by briefing regularly on the nCoV spread and China's efforts in preventing and controlling it.

'The Chinese side pays close attention to the report of the emergence of one confirmed case of pneumonia caused by the novel Coronavirus in India, and will cooperate with the Indian side to jointly strengthen the epidemic prevention and control,' Ji said.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to safeguarding the safety and health of every foreign national in China, including the Indian people, Ji said.

'We are willing to continue to maintain close communication with the Indian side, provide necessary assistance and convenience to ensure the health and safety of Indian citizens in China, and address their legitimate concerns timely,' he said.

'We also hope Indian side could continue to render understanding and support to China’s efforts in epidemic prevention and control,' Ji said.

India has already increased the number of airports from seven to 21 where thermal screening of passengers is being done for a possible exposure to the deadly nCoV and issued travel advisory asking nationals to refrain from travelling to China. The Centre has also stepped up vigil in areas bordering Nepal in view of a confirmed case of nCoV detected there.

The Union health minister has also written to all chief ministers, requesting them for personal intervention to review the states' preparedness for control and management of the spread of the virus.

Hundreds of people have been quarantined in hospitals, including over 800 in Kerala, and are being monitored by doctors, according to ministry officials.

Three men kept under observation in an isolation ward of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi for possible exposure to nCoV have tested negative, a Union health ministry official said.

On Wednesday, the only two Indian carriers that fly to China - IndiGo and Air India - announced suspension of most of their flights to the country, joining other airlines based in Asia, North America and Europe which have restricted operations to the region.

The Union health ministry has also advised those who have recently travelled to China (within last 14 days) or had possible contact with an nCoV-infected person to stay at home in isolation for 14 days after returning and sleep in a separate room.

It has advised them to cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu like symptoms (maintain a distance of at least 1 meter from any individual).

The ministry has also asked people coming from China to contact its control room no +91-11-2397 8046 for further information in case they develop fever, cough or difficulty in breathing anytime within 28 days of their return. PTI PLB KJV PYK PYK