Health minister Harsh Vardhan reviews actions taken to prevent, contain coronavirus

New Delhi, Mar 15 (PTI) Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed on Sunday the status of actions taken by the states and Union Territories for prevention and containment of coronavirus and directed officials to scale up the capacity of the round-the-clock control room helpline in view of increased volume of queries.

According to a health ministry statement, Vardhan was apprised of the emerging international and national status of COVID-19 at the meeting as he took stock of the status and preparedness of the states and UTs in terms of quarantine facilities, isolation wards, adequacy of personal protective equipment and other items.

He reviewed in great detail the steps taken by the states to foster 'social distancing' in great detail and advised them to maintain hygiene and cleanliness in hospitals, and adhere to all laid down protocols for containment and management of the disease, the ministry said.

The health minister said the 71-year-old man from Maharashtra's Buldhana who was admitted to a private hospital and died during treatment on Saturday, tested negative for coronavirus infection. He had returned from Saudi Arabia recently and had diabetes and high blood pressure.

A health ministry official said both the first and second confirmatory tests for coronavirus are free for all citizens.

About the two COVID-19 deaths in the country, Vardhan said both of them had pre-existing co-morbidities.

'Contract tracing of these cases is being rigorously pursued. So far, this has led to identification of more than 4,000 contacts who have been put under surveillance, the Union health minister said.

Vardhan directed officials to scale up the capacity of the 24x7 control room helpline by adding more lines and deploying additional human resource, to answer the queries about COVID-19, according to the statement.

The measures taken for avoiding non-essential travel and mass gatherings was also reviewed by Vardhan at the meeting. The outcomes of the discussions at the meeting shall be put up to the Group of Ministers (GOM) on COVID-19 at their meeting on Monday, it said.

As part of the government's efforts to evacuate Indian citizens from coronavirus-affected countries, an Air India flight from Italy's Milan arrived in Delhi this morning carrying 218 evacuees who were quarantined at the ITBP camp in Chhawla as per protocol, the health ministry said The third batch of 236 evacuees from Iran also arrived on Sunday and they were quarantined at the Army facility in Jaisalmer. The passengers were tested prior to their departure from Iran and all were reported to be asymptomatic, it said.

The ministry also said that 265 passengers from coronavirus-hit countries have been quarantined at Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

According to the health ministry, the number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 107 on Sunday. Twelve more people have tested positive in Maharashtra, taking the number of cases in the state to 31, it said. But state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said there were 32 cases.

Delhi has so far reported seven positive cases, Kerala 22 and Uttar Pradesh 11. Karnataka has six coronavirus patients while Ladakh three and Jammu and Kashmir had two. Telangana reported three cases. Rajasthan also reported two cases. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab have reported one case each. PTI PLB NSD