The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday held a press conference on the issue of deadly Coronavirus which has caused havoc across the world. While addressing the media, Additional Secretary Dammu Ravi said that the immediate aim is to "contain and control" adding that there is no need to be panic.
After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the novel Coronavirus outbreak a 'pandemic' on Wednesday, the MEA appointed IFS officer Dammu Ravi at the post of additional secretary to coordinate efforts at the global level regarding the spread of COVID-19.
Dammu Ravi made some clarifications on the evacuation procedures pertaining to Iran and Italy. "Tomorrow a team is like go to Iran, samples have already been coming by previous flight. They are being tested in India in our laboratories and those tested negative will be brought in. Similarly, a medical team will go to Italy, and then we will take the next measure of how do we bring them back," said Ravi.
In a move to contain the rapid spread of coronavirus cases in the country, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on Wednesday issued an advisory that all existing visas, barring diplomatic, UN/International Organisations, employment and project visas, will stand suspended till April 15, 2020. This move will come into effect from Friday at the port of departure. This advisory also applies for people with visa-free travel, and to OCI cardholders, whose 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.
WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic as the pathogen rapidly spread to more than 121,000 people from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America. Speaking to reporters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of a further rise in the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries. The last a pandemic was declared was in 2009, during the H1N1 swine flu outbreak.