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Government: Don’t Panic, No Community Transmission Of Coronavirus Yet

NEW DELHI: The number of confirmed Covid-19 patients in India rose to 74 on Thursday with 57 Indians and 17 foreigners testing positive for the virus while the government maintained there was “no community transmission observed” so far and urged people to follow advisories and not panic.

India has so far witnessed local transmission of coronavirus infection where people with travel history have passed on the virus to others who came in contact. However, a further spread to others in the community is considered critical as it poses greater challenges to contain transmission which has been seen in many other countries and is called “community transmission”.

In separate responses in Lok Sabha on Thursday, civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri, external affairs minister S Jaishankar and health minister Harsh Vardhan assured that several steps were being taken to contain the virus, bring back Indians in vulnerable countries and ensure swift clearances at airports.

Explaining the decision to suspend most visas, imposing a quarantine on India, Jaishankar said “exceptional situations require exceptional response”. Allaying fears of opposition MPs, the minister said Indians abroad were being assisted and efforts were underway to bring them back safely.

Puri told DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran that he has personally supervised clearance timings at airports and waiting did not exceed 30 minutes at the most. Vardhan said intensive contact tracing was on and Jaishankar said 6,000 Indians were in Iran.

“Luckily, in India, we do not have any community transmission. We have only a few cases that have come from outside and they have primarily affected their close family members,” Lav Aggarwal, joint secretary in the health ministry, said in a briefing.

The government is working on a war footing to tackle spread of the virus, which has reached around 114 countries and infected over a lakh people. The World Health Organisation has declared it a global pandemic.

Around 1,500 people have been put under observation who came in contact with 74 positive cases tested so far, whereas over 30,000 people across the country are under community surveillance.

In a precautionary move, the government on Wednesday suspended all visas for a month, except a few like diplomatic, UN organisations and employment visas. The government had on Wednesday informed of 60 positive cases in the country.

While 948 people have been evacuated and quarantined for 14 days, around 130-150 Indians are likely to be evacuated from Iran by Saturday, a senior official from the civil aviation ministry said. The government will undertake three such evacuations to bring back Indians stranded there.

“The first from Iran will reach Mumbai airport around 12.30pm tomorrow. The second will be on March 15 and arrive at Delhi airport. The third is likely to be on March 16 or 17,” the official said.

The 83 evacuees from Italy who arrived in India on Wednesday have been housed at the Manesar quarantine facility. All patients in hospitals are being treated and reported to be stable, officials said. Till now, 11,14,025 people have been screened at 30 designated airports in India, the health ministry said.

“India has said that if people from certain countries are coming here, they have to go through quarantine – in certain cases compulsory quarantine and in some cases discretionary quarantine – and Indian citizens who are coming back will obviously come back to quarantine conditions if required,” Jaishankar told Lok Sabha.
“It is absolutely essential that we react responsibly and soberly. An excessive sense of alarm would only be to the detriment of those who are really in need,” he added.
The government, he said, had decided to make provision for testing primarily for students in Italy and collect samples. Those tested negative will be allowed to travel and will be quarantined on arrival in India for 14 days.
Vardhan said reports that people were not screened were incorrect and India had been able to trace every person who tested positive even after they had not shown positive during screening.-Times Of India