The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has said that the National Institute of Virology in Pune is fully prepared to test samples of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) along with 10 other laboratories under the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Viral Research.
The Diagnostics Laboratories networks are also equipped to test such samples if the need arises, said the MoHFW Secretary on Monday, in the wake of a major nCoV outbreak in China, where the first foreigner to contract the virus was a 45-year-old Indian school teacher.
The MoHFW on Monday wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) urging for details of travellers from Wuhan city who have sought a visa to travel to India, since December 31, 2019, and to counsel the applicants while issuing visa and E-Visa.
The MEA has also been requested to provide daily details and to disseminate travel advisory in local languages to Indian Embassies in China and adjoining countries for wider circulation and passenger information.
The MoHFW has also written to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to facilitate thermal screening at the International airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin and to give instruction to the airlines to follow International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines for managing and notifying anybody reporting ill on flights originating from China and disembarking in India.
MoCA has instructed for in-flight announcements for India-bound flights.
The Special Secretary of Health took a review meeting on Monday in the context of spurt in cases reported by China and the public health measures that need to be scaled up.
The Health Secretary has also written to the States and Union Territories to review their preparedness, identifying gaps and strengthening core capacities in the area of surveillance, laboratory support infection prevention and control, logistics, risk communication and in particular, hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of critically ill patients of severe acute respiratory illness (SARI).
The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme has issued an advisory to all States and UTs for SARI surveillance to pick up any travel related case reported in the community and follow up contacts of a suspect or confirmed cases.
Rapid response teams of the States and UTs have been trained in the management of MERS-CoV outbreak (a similarly placed virus, reported from the Middle East) in the year 2014.
More recently these Rapid Response Teams of all States/UTs, Airport Health Organisations and Port Health organisation (APHO/PHOs) and Regional Directors of this Ministry have also been trained (in November-December, 2019) on the management of high-risk pathogens in the context of Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A travel advisory has been issued and put up on the Ministry’s website and Twitter handle for wider circulation. According to the Health Ministry, Port and Airport Health Organizations have been sensitized and thermal screening has been initiated at the international airports.
The Airport Health Organizations at the airports of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata have put up signages at prominent locations informing the public about self-reporting of illness. The hospitals attached to these airports have been reviewed for the provision of isolation and critical care facilities.
Immigration officers manning the counters have been sensitized at these airports. Adequate stock of Personal Protection Equipment is being maintained by the Medical Stores Organization.
However, as of Tuesday, there were no cases detected on community surveillance or contact tracing.
As per the World Health Organisation update as of January 11 in all, 41 cases of Novel Coronavirus have been reported so far from China, including one death.
As per WHO risk assessment, the risk for global spread, as of now, remains low. The MoHFW awaits for further details.