Amid rising cases of the deadly novel coronavirus in India, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Friday maintained that the government is closely monitoring the situation along with extensive collaboration with the states. India has to date reported 31 cases of coronavirus, also called COVID-19, prompting health officials to scramble ways and means to prevent a widespread outbreak.
Speaking to ANI, Harsh Vardhan said, "We initiated actions from January 17, way before WHO declared it a global public health emergency. We are screening people not just at airports, but also in almost every sea and land entry-exit terminals. We have activated the Integrated Disease Surveillance mechanism and are working with state and DM level authorities to monitor cases."
मैंने सभी राज्यों व संघ शासित प्रदेशों को भरोसा दिलाया कि #COVID19 की चुनौतियों से निपटने में केंद्र सरकार हर संभव मदद देगी।मैंने सभी से अपील करी कि @MoHFW_INDIA द्वारा #COVID को लेकर जारी दिशानिर्देशों का पालन सुनिश्चित करें। @PMOIndia #CoronavirusOutbreak pic.twitter.com/Uo4UQ02aAq— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) March 6, 2020
The Health Minister also informed that PM Narendra Modi will chair a meeting on the matter on Saturday with cabinet and health secretaries as well as with a Group of Minister's panel. He also said that Indians infected with COVID-19, who arrived last month from the epidemic's epicenter China, are recovering and others brought from Japan will soon have their tests after their quarantine period ends next week.
"We are also starting the process to bring back Indians from Iran. In that regard, we will be calling for their samples and assist setting up of labs there," the union minister said.
Harsh Vardhan also stated that awareness campaign is underway across the country and people who are healthy need not to wear protective masks. "We have sent detailed guidelines to the states... We have WhatsApp groups with state authorities where information is passed."
The Health Minister also warned of action against those shopkeepers who inflate prices of masks, as is being reported across Indian cities. "There is no need to create panic about the need to wear masks. Strict action should be taken against shopkeepers who are charging more than the fixed price for masks," Harsh Vardhan stated.
Globally, more than 3,300 people have died due to coronavirus, with China reporting the most deaths. The virus has infected more than 98,000 people globally and has now spread to the United States, Europe, South America, Africa and as many as 80 other countries. The World Health Organisation is yet to declare COVID-19 a pandemic but has warned of a move in that direction should countries fail to arrest the spread.
(With ANI inputs)