An Indian nurse working at a hospital in Saudi Arabia tested positive for the novel coronavirus when she and nearly 100 of her Indian colleagues, mostly from Kerala, were screened, the government said on Thursday.
The affected nurse is being treated at the Aseer National Hospital and is recovering well, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said.
In a tweet, he said, 'Update from @CGIJeddah : About 100 Indian nurses mostly from Kerala working at Al-Hayat hospital have been tested and none except one nurse was found infected by Corona virus. Affected nurse is being treated at Aseer National Hospital and is recovering well.'
Muraleedharan said he had earlier spoken to the Indian Consulate in Jeddah on the Indian nurses quarantined at Al-Hayat Hospital, Khamis Mushait, due to the coronavirus threat.
'They are in touch with hospital management and Saudi foreign Ministry. Have asked our Consulate to provide all possible support,' he said.
The Indian embassy in Jeddah clarified in a tweet that the nurse found positive for coronavirus was suffering for MERS-CoV and not 2019-NCoV (Wuhan).
'Dr Tarik Al Azraqi, Chairman, Scientific Regional Infection Control Committee, Aseer Region, has confirmed that d Indian Nurse being treated at Aseer National Hospital is suffering from MERS-CoV & not 2019-NCoV (Wuhan). We request everyone to refrain from sharing incorrect info,' it said in the tweet.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, while the 2019 Wuhan coronavirus is a novel one, meaning a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to External Affairs minister S Jaishankar to take urgent steps in ensuring expert treatment and protection to those affected from the virus.
There were media reports that the affected nurse was from Ettumannur in Kerala's Kottayam district.
Kerala Health Minister K K Shyalaja said those who have returned from China should inform district medical officers and instructed officials to step up surveillance in all four airports-- Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode and Kannur--in the state.
The coronavirus has infected over 630 people and left 17 others dead in China, where authorities have locked down five cities, including Wuhan, and suspended all public transport in an unprecedented move to contain its spread.
The Union health ministry has said 12,828 passengers from 60 flights have been screened for novel coronavirus infection till January 22 but no positive case has been detected in the country so far.
Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan is reviewing the evolving scenario and the preparedness status.
She has asked states and union territories to review hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of critically ill patients, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities in the area of surveillance and laboratory support, an official statement said.
Thermal screening is being done at the international airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin.
The civil aviation ministry has asked airlines to follow International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines for managing and notifying anybody reporting illness on flights originating from China and disembarking in India.
A travel advisory was issued on January 17 and put up on the ministry's website and also on the Twitter handle for wider circulation.
'Port and airport health organisations have been sensitised and thermal screening has been initiated at the international airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin airports,' the statement said.
China seals 5 cities; Hotlines set up for Indians
Meanwhile, China on Thursday locked down five cities, including Wuhan, suspending all public transport in an unprecedented move to contain the coronavirus that has infected over 630 people and left 17 others dead, dampening the celebrations of the Lunar New Year.
The Indian Embassy in Beijing has set up hotlines for assistance of people from the country.
Chinese officials assured all assistance, including food supply, to the Indians who stayed put in the Hubei province, the Indian Embassy in Beijing said in a press release on Thursday.
On Thursday evening, Chinese officials announced suspension of public transport in five cities - Huanggang, Ezhou, Zhijiang, Qianjiang and Wuhan in Hubei province, official media reported.
Wuhan, the city of 11 million people where the virus is believed to have first emerged, has no trains or planes in or out.
Nationwide, a total of 17 people have died, all of them in and around Wuhan.
The victims' average age was 73, with the oldest 89 and the youngest 48.
So far 631 cases have been confirmed in 25 provincial-level regions in the country.
"The Embassy of India has been receiving queries from Indians in Hubei province as well as their relatives in India in connection with the evolving situation of coronavirus infection in China," the embassy press release said.
The embassy is in touch with relevant Chinese authorities in Beijing and Wuhan as well as Indians in Hubei Province, especially in Wuhan, it said.
‘We are closely monitoring the evolving situation in China, including the advisories issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO)," the embassy said.
According to the embassy, Chinese authorities have assured all assistance to residents of Wuhan, including food supply.
'At present, it is reported that supermarkets (particularly those that are government-run) and e-commerce services, including food delivery, continue to remain operational in Wuhan,' it said.
The embassy has started two hotlines for those who wish to get in touch with the Mission in this regard in the following phone numbers: +8618612083629 and +8618612083617.
'All are advised to also keep track of the embassy's social media accounts (Twitter:@EoIBeijing; Facebook: India in China) for updates on this evolving situation,' the release said.