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Coronavirus outbreak: India shuts door on visa holders as WHO calls situation pandemic

NEW DELHI: On a day the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, India on Wednesday took the unprecedented action of suspending visas issued to tourists across the world till April 15. Visa-free travel for Overseas Citizenship of India cardholders, too, has been cancelled.

“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure,” the government advisory said. Five new cases of the infection were reported in India, including three in Maharashtra.

WHO’s decision came as the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus shot past 120,000 across 114 countries. In WHO’s lexicon, a pandemic is “the worldwide spread of a new disease”.

A group of ministers led by Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan decided that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

“Indian nationals are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. On their return, they can be subjected to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days,” the ministry said.

The government also issued orders to prohibit entry of any international cruise ship, crew or passenger with a travel history to coronavirus-hit countries post-February 1, 2020 to its major ports till March 31.

International cruise ships will be allowed only at ports having thermal screening facilities for passengers and crew members.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra reported three more confirmed cases, taking its total to 11. However, the Union health ministry’s website recorded only two cases in the state.

Also, two employees of Dell and Mindtree reportedly tested positive, but there was no word on their respective locations.

In J&K, all primary schools and Anganwadi centres in Jammu and cinema halls across the region will remain shut till March 31.

The last time WHO declared a pandemic was in 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak, which infected a quarter of the world’s population.

SARS was not considered a pandemic, despite affecting people in 26 countries; neither was MERS.

In Tamil Nadu, the second confirmatory test result of a 45-year-old man from Kancheepuram also returned negative on Wednesday.

Dr K Koladaswamy, Director of Public Health, confirmed that the man is stable and does not require home quarantine.

No foreigners in IPL till April 15?

The IPL scheduled from March 29 may not have foreign players till April 15 due to the new visa curbs.

Players and support staff for IPL come under business visa (B Sports), which is barred.

Besides, the sports ministry advised Himachal Pradesh to avoid public gathering during the India-SA ODI on Thursday

Confirmed cases: 1,21,757

Total Deaths: 4,390

Recovered cases: 66,988

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