While addressing a press conference the Union Ministry of Health addressed the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country amidst the soaring number of cases which have now reached 73. The press brief comes a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the novel disease 'a pandemic'. "India has taken timely, preemptive, and preventive measures. Our response was generated on January 8, much before the WHO declared it as a pandemic, said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary of Ministry of Health.
"Measures have been taken by Central Ministries along with State and Union territories in terms of community surveillance, quarantine facilities, isolation of wards, trained manpower and rapid response team for COVID19," he said.
The official also spoke about India's efforts to evacuate Indian nationals stuck aborad due to the epidemic. "So far, the Government of India has evacuated 900 Indian citizens along with 48 belonging to other nations like Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, US, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa, and Peru," said Lav Agarwal.
He also spoke about the suspension of visas done yesterday by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare which issued an advisory stating that all existing visas, barring diplomatic, UN/International Organisations, employment and project visas, will stand suspended till April 15, 2020.
"Visa-free travel facility granted to Overseas Citizen Of India (OCI) cardholders are kept in abeyance till 15th April 2020. This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure," he said.
The official stated that given the current situation of the virus in India, masks were not necessary if the person maintained an effective social distance. "There is no need to panic. Right now, luckily for India, we do not have any community transmission. We have only a few cases that have come from outside and they have primarily affected their close family members," said the official.
"We already have around 1 lakh testing kits available, additional testing kits have already been ordered and they are also in procurement. Coronavirus is difficult to isolate. We have close to 11 isolates of virus available. 1st stage of isolation is successful," said the official.
Lav Agarwal also stated that what was the most important step in arresting the spread of the disease was strengthening of surveillance. "Major focus is on community screening. Teams are in place. All passengers do get monitored. We do the profiling of the passengers. People should go back to isolation if they suspect something. We are dealing with 1.3 million people in the country. We have been requesting the community to help us," he said.