A day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, the number of cases in India has risen up to 73 on Wednesday. To contain the spread, India has suspended all existing visas, barring diplomatic, UN/ International Organisations, employment and project visas, till April 15, 2020. The novel coronavirus surfaced in a Chinese seafood and poultry market late last year.
On December 31, the government in Wuhan, China, confirmed that health authorities were treating dozens of pneumonia-like cases. Days later, on January 7, the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the causative agent that had infected dozens of people. On January 11, China reported its first death. As the number of cases increased in the Chinese city of Wuhan, more than 11 million population, was cut off by Chinese authorities. By January 30, as virus started spreading all over the world, WHO declared it as a “public health emergency of international concern", finally declaring it as a pandemic on March 11.
Over one lakh twenty thousand people have been tested positive for the virus and at least 4,000 people have died and over 60,000 have recovered. The virus has spread to nearly 120 countries and so far.
The coronavirus (CoV) is a novel strain in the large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes. Common symptoms of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) strain include respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, as per WHO. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people, according to the WHO. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands. The viruses can also spread by touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands, the CDC said.
While there is no vaccine to protect against this family of viruses, WHO has released a list of precaution that must be followed amid the worldwide outbreak of the virus:
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
The formal declaration of a #COVID19 #pandemic does not change the fact that you can - and should - take these simple steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.— WHO Thailand (@WHOThailand) March 11, 2020
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It has also declared coronavirus as a pandemic. Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people. It basically means that there is a simultaneous and sustained spread of a disease across the world, across international borders.
The last time WHO declared a pandemic was during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak. COVID-19 became the first pandemic as the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, which is also a strain of coronavirus, was contained to avoid that classification.
The first case of coronavirus was reported in Kerala on January 30. The health ministry said in a statement that the patient is a student at Wuhan University in China. As on Thursday, the toll rose up to 73, as per official record. Earlier on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare along with suspending Visas, issued an advisory for people with visa-free travel, and to OCI cardholders, stating that visa-free access will be temporarily suspended with effect from March 13, 2020.
The statement also specified that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from Coronavirus-affected countries, namely, China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain, and Germany after February 15, 2020, will have to undergo a minimum 14-day period of mandatory quarantine.
The Ministry's advisory cautioned that International traffic through land borders will be limited to designated check posts with meticulous screening facilities. These checkpoints will be notified separately by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Notably, the statement also mentioned that enhanced testing facilities for students in Italy to collect samples will be arranged. Those tested negative will be allowed to travel and will be quarantined on arrival in India for 14 days.