Fifteen Italian tourists, including the wife of an infected Italian, and eight Indians have tested positive for coronavirus on March 4, taking the number of cases to 29 in the country.
Two cases with a high viral load were detected in Telangana. A Paytm employee tested positive in Gurgaon. The company said in a statement that the person had a travel history to Italy. The Health Ministry also confirmed the case which came to light in the evening.
“As a precautionary measure, we have suggested that his team members get health tests done immediately. Our Noida and Gurgaon offices will be shut for two days. We have also advised all our colleagues to work from home for a couple of days, while we get our offices sanitized. However, there will not be any impact on our daily operations and Paytm services will continue as usual,” the company said.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said six family members of the 45-year-old Delhi patient had tested positive.
Coronavirus broke out in China’s Wuhan city in December and has spread to over 60 countries, killing more than 3,000 and infecting nearly 90,000.
“India, with a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, will start universal screening at all international airports and sea-ports through the use of thermal imagery equipment as well as mandatory filling of declaration forms of places visited by tourists and travellers returning from abroad. All passengers of international flights will now have to undergo screening, and not just from the 12 countries listed earlier,” he said.
The Minister said the government would adopt a cluster approach to containing the virus. “Health authorities will check and sensitise every household within a 3-km radius of the house of the infected person…,”
“Over 5,89,000 people have been screened at airports in two months, over 10 lakh screened on borders with Nepal and around 27,000 are under community surveillance,” he said.
Mr. Vardhan said, “The patient from Delhi has infected six of his relatives in Agra whom he recently visited, and they all are being treated at Safdarjung Hospital. The 24-year-old man from Hyderabad has also tested positive, and has been isolated. Besides, 15 members of a tourist group from Italy and their Indian driver have been found infected with the virus.”
“While an Italian man and his wife are being treated at Jaipur’s SMS Hospital, the other Italians who have tested positive are being treated at designated hospitals and some others are in preventive isolation at a different location. The Italian tourists wanted to go back to their country after the first person in their group tested positive in Jaipur, but the authorities advised them to stay in India. Also three persons, infected earlier in Kerala, have already been discharged,” he said.
The Minister said the government would open a laboratory in Iran so that Indians there could be tested for a possible exposure to coronavirus before being brought back. An estimated 1,200 Indians, mostly students and pilgrims, are now in Iran. “If the Iranian government lends its support, a testing facility could be set up there as well, so that Indians there can be tested before they can be brought back.”
Dr. Vardhan held a meeting with Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain and civic body officials on Wednesday and urged them to augment the facilities at isolation wards in city hospitals, if needed. “Currently, we have 15 laboratories in India which are conducting tests for coronavirus, 19 more laboratories are being established,” he said.
Urging the people to avoid crowded places, Mr. Vardhan said there was no shortage of personal protection gear. “We have ensured that the export of N-95 masks and personal protective equipment is banned… The Ministry has taken adequate measures to ensure that there is no scarcity.”
Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister P.K. Mishra chaired an inter-ministerial meeting to review the preparedness.