The government is taking all steps to prevent spread of coronavirus and the scale of interventions has been increased in alignment with the evolving situation in India where 28,529 persons have been brought under community surveillance and monitoring, health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday.
Making a suo moto statement first in Rajya Sabha and than in Lok Sabha on steps taken to contain the virus, he said as on March 4, a total of 29 positive cases have been reported in the country.
He also said that India is touch with Iran on possible evacuation of Indian pilgrims and students stranded in the coronavirus-hit nation.
Elaborating on the situation in India, he said, "3 cases were reported in Kerala earlier, who have since recovered and have been discharged already".
The minister said in the last three days, new travel related cases have tested positive including one in Delhi having travel history of Italy and in Telangana, who had come in contact with a person from Singapore while in Dubai.
Six more cases have tested positive in Agra having contact history with case in Delhi. Besides, an Italian tourist and his wife have tested positive in Rajasthan. 14 other accompanying tourists in this group and their Indian bus driver tested positive on their return to Delhi.
"All of them are reported to be stable," he said.
"A recent positive case has also been reported in Delhi yesterday (Wednesday) having travel history from Italy and is stable," the minister said.
Vardhan said a major area of concern is Indian pilgrims and students stranded in Tehran and Qom, epicentres of the Iran Covid-19 outbreak.
"Government of India is following up with Iran authorities for their well-being and to tie up evacuation as per need," he said.
The minister said ever increasing magnitude of this outbreak globally calls for a concerted effort by not only health but all sectors of government.
The prime minister is personally monitoring the preparedness and response on a regular basis and a Group of Ministers has been constituted to monitor the situation.
Listing measures to control the risk, he said travel advisories have been issued since January 17.
"Presently it prescribes, all regular (sticker) visas/e- visa (including visa on arrival for Japan and South Korea) granted to nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and issued on or before March 3 and who have not yet entered India, stand suspended with immediate effect," he said.
Also, visa granted to nationals of China, issued on or before February 5 were suspended earlier. "It shall remain in force."
Visa granted to all foreign nationals who have travelled to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan on or after February 1, and who have not yet entered India, stand suspended with immediate effect, he said adding Indians have been advised not to travel to China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan.
In addition, passengers of all international flights entering into India from any port are required to furnish travel history.
Universal screening for all international passengers coming in the country has been initiated from Wednesday, he said.
The minister said all the 654 persons including 647 Indian air-lifted from coronavirus epicentre Wuhan, China were discharged on testing negative of the disease.
The second evacuation of 112 people including 76 Indians too tested negative after the mandatory 14 day quarantine period.
Also, all the 124 evacuees from the COVID-19 infected cruise ship Diamond Princess from Port of Yokohama in Japan have tested negative and are stable.
"Regular surveillance has been initiated across the country for all cases having travel history from all major COVID-19 affected countries and for people having contact with such persons and having fever, cough or breathlessness," he said, adding as on March 4, a total of 28529 persons were brought under community surveillance and monitored.
Besides the Pune lab, testing of clinical samples has also been initiated in 15 more laboratories.
Another 19 laboratories are being prepared to test samples to ensure adequate geographical spread across the country.
"The network is being further expanded," he said.
"Our focus is on adherence to core capacities for disease preparedness and response which include surveillance, laboratory diagnosis, hospital preparedness, logistics management, capacity building of health care staff and risk communication to the community.
"The scale and extent of our interventions have increased in alignment with the evolving situation of COVID-19 across the world and India in particular," he said.
The minister said the challenge was to tracing contacts of the positive cases.
"I want to inform this house that the Government is taking all necessary measures to prevent spread of the COVID-19 in India," he added.
Since reporting of an outbreak of Novel Coronavirus on December 31, 2019 in China, a total of 80,270 confirmed cases and 2981 deaths have been reported in China.
Outside of China, 12,857 confirmed cases and 220 deaths have been reported in 78 countries including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
"Though the daily confirmed cases and deaths have shown a downward trend in China, still new cases are being reported from Hubei province and Wuhan city, the epicenter of the outbreak," he said.
He said the World Health Organisation has not yet declared COVID-19 to be pandemic but has asked the countries to remain prepared.
India, he said, initiated required preparedness and action at field level since January 17 itself.
Once a person is exposed to the infection, the disease may develop anytime between 1-14 days.
The main symptoms of novel coronavirus are fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing.
All suspected or probable cases of COVID-19 must be treated in isolation with barrier nursing and universal precautions to prevent further spread of the disease.